International comparison of healthcare systems


A new Commonwealth Fund report has assessed seven industrialized countries on the performance of their health system in five areas: quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives. The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation supporting independent research on health policy. 27,000 patients and primary care doctors were surveyed across all seven countries as part of the study.

The Netherlands ranked first overall, closely followed by the UK and Australia. The UK performed well when it came to quality of care and access to care. In relation to access, the study says: "The UK has short waiting times for basic medical care and non-emergency access to services after hours, but has longer waiting times for specialist care and elective, non-emergency surgery." The Netherlands ranked very highly on all waiting times measurements. When it came to efficiency, the UK and Australia ranked first and second.

Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last overall. While there is room for improvement in every country, the U.S. stands out for getting poor value for its health care dollars, ranking last despite spending $7,290 per person on health care in 2007 compared to the $3,837 spent per in the Netherlands, which ranked first overall.

Report author Karen Davis comments, "It is disappointing, but not surprising that, despite significant investment in health care, the U.S. continues to lag behind other countries. With enactment of the Affordable Care Act, we have entered a new era in American health care. We will begin strengthening primary care and investing in health information technology and quality improvement, ensuring that all Americans can obtain access to high quality, efficient health care."

On measures of quality the United States ranked sixth out of the seven countries. On two of four measures of quality — effective care and patient-centred care — the U.S. ranks in the middle. However, the U.S. ranks last when it comes to providing safe care, and next to last on coordinated care. On measures of efficiency, the U.S ranked last due to low marks when it comes to spending on administrative costs, use of information technology, re-hospitalization, and duplicative medical testing. On measures of access to care, people in the U.S. have the hardest time affording the health care they need, with the U.S. ranking last on every measure of cost-related access problems.

Overall rankings -

1. The Netherlands

2. United Kingdom

3. Australia

4. Germany

5. New Zealand

6. Canada

7. United States



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