Healthcare system woes

Submitted by Carlyn Zwarenstein on July 18, 2014 - 13:12

A recent report from the Commonwealth Fund, a non-profit, private American foundation, compares the U.S. healthcare system with a number of its international counterparts.

The study uses a number of measures to determine success, and tries to assess quality of care, access, efficiency, equity and achievement of healthy lives. It draws on surveys of patients and primary care physicians as well as data from recent studies by the World Health Organization and the OECD, and from its own national healthcare system survey, from 2011. The nations ranked are Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. No surprise, perhaps (especially since the data were in before full legal implementation of the Affordable Care Act) that the U.S. ranked dead last on access. But in fact, it also ranked last overall, thanks to problems on many different health outcome measures, quality, and efficiency.

What might be more surprising is that Canada ranked next-to-last overall, sitting at tenth out of the eleven countries. Timeliness, safety, and efficiency were areas where we ranked particularly badly.

We might take heart, though. Policy and funding decisions can change things a lot, for good or ill. While the report ranked the U.K.’s NHS best of the bunch, it seems that the system is facing a serious funding crisis—with healthcare policy experts, physicians and politicians of all stripes suggesting it’s close to collapse (though as always, there are varying ideas on what to do about that).



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