Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shocking, But Not Surprising - US Healthcare System Ranks Last

In a Health Affairs article which looked at how well 19 industrialized countries kept their citizens healthy, the United States ranked last. Which countries ranked best (in order of best to worst performance)?
  • France, Japan, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The authors looked at how these countries did on decreasing the death rate among those under age 75 between 1997 to 1998 and 2002 to 2003. Specifically, were countries better than others decreasing the death rate by improving the healthcare system by timely effective delivery of care?

  • In 1997–98, the U.S. ranked 15th out of the 19 countries on this measure—ahead of only Finland, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and Ireland—with a rate of 114.7 deaths per 100,000 people. By 2002–03, the U.S. fell to last place, with 109.7 per 100,000. In the leading countries, mortality rates per 100,000 people were 64.8 in France, 71.2 in Japan, and 71.3 in Australia.
Had the performance improved to the levels by the top three countries, 75,000 to 101,000 Americans would still be alive today.

Sadly, our country's poor performance is not a surprise. In our country, the healthcare system as a whole provides the known preventive tests and interventions proven to save lives only 55 percent of the time. Slightly better than a coin flip. As Americans pay more per capita for healthcare than any other country in the world, our system isn't the best at keeping us healthy. Unless you take the initiative and ask for tests and interventions that will keep you healthy for a long time, you might get the right care half the time. Are you willing to risk it?

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