Thursday, November 1, 2007

How do people in different countries view their health care ? How do their opinions compare to those in the US?

As we debate how to achieve an improved health care system for the United States, the opponents of change often raise the specter of "socialized medicine", and invoke stories about the horrible care and service in other countries. What has been lacking in this discussion is, how do the residents of the United States and other countries actually feel themselves about their experiences within their respective health care systems?

A new seven-nation survey has just been released by The Commonwealth Fund. It shows that U.S. adults were the most likely to say they experienced medical errors, more likely to report they went without care because of the cost, and more likely to feel the health care system needs to be rebuilt completely. The results, are published in the journal Health Affairs.

The article, Higher-Performance Health Systems: Adults' Health Care Experiences in Seven Countries, 2007, also shows that U.S. adults have the highest out-of-pocket costs and the greatest difficulty paying for needed medical care.

The survey was conducted among 12,000 adults in Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. One-third of U.S. adults surveyed called for rebuilding the system, and this was the highest rate of any country surveyed. In addition to cost concerns, the experiences of U.S. patients indicated more fragmented and inefficient care in the U.S., including medical record and test delays.

Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen, the lead author of the study, said "Patients in the U.S. are frustrated by high costs and a complicated health care system,".

The survey also examined the experiences of adults who have a "medical home", which was defined in this study as a regular source of care that is accessible and helps coordinate their care. Across all seven countries, only about half to 60 percent of the adults reported having such a relationship with a health care provider. In each of the countries in the survey, those adults who did have a medical home reported a significantly more positive care experience.

Food for thought as we discuss how to improve our system!