There was an article in yesterday's Washington Post reporting on US health care as being the least effective and most expensive compared to other industrialized nations. The report released by a "respected" think tank, the Commonwealth Fund, ranks the US dead last at #11. Our spending per capita is $8,508 compared to Norway, which is the second most expensive at $5,669. This particular think tank continues to be a strong proponent of socialized medicine so one might think that the data and analysis may be a bit skewed toward those countries that have a national health program. If I am not mistaken, all of the remaining ten countries have some form of socialized medicine, scoring very high on the equity factor.
Now for the rest of the story. I have blogged previously that the capturing of much of our quality data varies from state to state, let alone country to country. For example, infant mortality is reported in this study and the definitions of what is infant mortality truly vary from state to state. Also, in the US, we capture EVERYTHING while other countries do limited or selective capturing of data.
The study doesn't mention individual outcomes where the US far exceeds other industrialized nations. For cancers alone, the US ranks well ahead of the UK (which was first overall in the study with per capita spending of $3,405) in 22 of 23 different types of cancers.
Also, have you ever been in hospitals in these other countries? In many instances, they are a far cry from state of the art, what our patients have come to expect and on what our hospitals are rated. Patient satisfaction, which is a major quality indicator for the US, isn't captured in the Commonwealth Fund's latest study. If that were the case, how would the number one ranked country, United Kingdom, fare? In recent years, I have read numerous articles about the poor care of its patients, wait times, limited resources, etc.
Now, are we perfect in the US? No, but in recent years our numbers have improved dramatically in both what is captured in the Commonwealth Fund study and everything else. The bottom line is that these studies really get to me when they are unfairly conducted and reported simply to push one's own agenda