U.S. health system underperforms when compared to other countries

The U.S. health system is the most expensive in the world, but when compared to health systems in other countries, it consistently underperforms.

In a report from the U.S. Commonwealth Fund, researchers analyzed data and patient and physician survey results on care experiences and ratings from seven nations, and ranked them in five dimensions of a high performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives.  

Key findings from the report:

  • Quality: The U.S. scored well on providing preventive and patient-centered care. However, it scored low on chronic care management and safe, coordinated care, which bring its overall quality score down. The U.S. lags behind other countries in using information technology and managing chronic conditions.
  • Access: People in the U.S. go without needed health care because of cost more often than people in the other countries. Most often, people who go without care due to high cost are people with health problems.  Insured patients in the U.S. have quick access to health care services.
  • Efficiency: The U.S. ranks last among the seven countries for efficiency.  Problem areas include high administrative costs, the use of information technology, rehospitalizations, and duplicative medical testing.
  • Equity: Americans with below-average incomes were much more likely than those in other countries to report not getting needed treatment because of cost.  The U.S. ranked last of all seven countries in equity.
  • Long, healthy and productive lives: The U.S. received poor scores on all three indicators of long, healthy, and productive lives which include deaths that could have been prevented with timely and effective care; infant mortality; and healthy life expectancy.

(Sources: The Commonwealth Fund, http://www.commonwealthfund.org, June, 2010; AHA News Now, http://ahanews.com, June 23, 2010)