Yesterday, I read Paul Levy's Blog, Not Running a Hospital. His blog was regarding health care spending as a percentage of Gross National Product. Although the percentages vary for all countries depending on who is capturing the data, the average is about 8% even, with the U.S. at about 14%. For most countries, their spending is too low and we are too high.
Anyway, Paul's blog reminded me of a recent opportunity to speak with various people from Italy. When they found out my profession, everyone with whom I spoke volunteered, "Our (Italian) health care is terrible.” Really? But it's national health care whereby everyone receives their care at little or no cost. In conversation with the Italians, I heard the same complaints that you hear about Canadian and British health care--you wait forever for everything. According to these Italians, everyone is covered including immigrants from all over the world, who some Italians say are invading their country, taking jobs in an already very dismal Italian economy and grossly delaying the care of Italians when it is needed. Interesting. One with whom I spoke was a bartender from Egypt who is now living in Florence, Italy. He needed immediate surgery but there was going to be a six-week scheduling delay in Florence. He returned to Egypt and was operated on the next day.
In Paul's blog, he quotes a colleague from Denmark who asks, "Why does everyone come to Denmark to see our system thinking that it's wonderful; it's awful." I hope that in the US, we "go to school" on how health care programs have been designed in other countries and consider what works and what doesn't as we change how it is delivered in the US. So far, the changes that we have instituted at WMHS have improved the quality of care and reduced the cost. I hope that the state and Federal governments, along with the other payors, allow that to continue.