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Amsterdam-based hospitals to adjust their information exchange processes after NMa investigation

Several hospitals in Amsterdam have promised to adjust their information exchange processes in such a way that they will not exchange any competition-sensitive information. Ten hospitals in the Amsterdam metropolitan area have made commitments thereon, which have been accepted by the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) and have been declared binding in a commitment decision issued on December 31, 2010.

Henk Don, member of the Board of the NMa, states: 'I am very pleased that this solution has taken away the competition concerns swiftly and efficiently. Now that the commitment decision has been issued, the NMa will close its investigation.' In February 2010, the NMa carried out dawn raids, as part of the then ongoing investigation, at Sigra, the association of health care providers in the Amsterdam area, and at two Amsterdam-based hospitals, the Academic Medical Center (AMC) and VU University medical center (VUmc).

The investigation focused on the exchange of statistical data about, among other things, patient flows and actual production within the platform of the Hospitals section of SIGRA, which is an independent unit promoting collaboration between hospitals in the Amsterdam area. The NMa concluded that the information they exchanged was competition-sensitive information. The NMa had identified potential competition concerns now that hospitals could harmonize their strategic behavior as a result of the information exchange, or that the information could be used in negotiations with health insurers. No violation has been established. Now that the NMa has accepted the hospitals' commitment, it will close the investigation. In the commitment decision, the hospitals have promised, among other things, not to share any commercially sensitive information that is not older than 12 months within their information exchange system. One exception to this commitment is the exchange of information in the form of anonymous market researches or benchmarks. Furthermore, other providers of specialist health care services in the Amsterdam area, too, can access the information that is exchanged.

The hospital industry was included in the 2010-2011 NMa Agenda. The NMa is currently discussing the boundaries of the Dutch Competition Act with regard to cooperation in the specialist health care industry with the undertakings involved, but also with the industry at large. For example, the NMa, the Dutch Healthcare Authority (NZa) and the Dutch Hospitals Association (NVZ) are jointly organizing the conference on 'Hospital care and market oversight,' which will be held on January 28, 2011, and is targeted at managers in the industry. Topics at the conference include information exchange, specializations and concentrations.