US Ranks Poorly in Treatment of Chronic Disease

The Commonwealth Club has reported on a study in Health Affairs regarding care of chronic conditions in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The results find that more patients in the United States fail to receive recommended care due to cost than other countries. While conservatives often claim that universal care will lead to rationing and excessive waiting time for appointments, the study found that the United States, as well as Canada, did more poorly than the other countries with regards to waiting time.

Problems were also found to be greater in the care of chronic medical conditions, backing up the inclusion of improved disease management in Barack Obama’s health care plan.  I suspect that this is also related to our problems with dealing with such a poor system of reimbursement which takes up an exorbitant amount of time in medical offices.

A summary of their findings follows:

  • More than half (54%) of U.S. patients did not get recommended care, fill prescriptions, or see a doctor when sick because of costs, versus 7 percent to 36 percent in the other countries.
  • About one-third of U.S. patients—the highest proportion in the survey—experienced medical errors, including delays in learning about abnormal lab test results.
  • Similarly, one-third of U.S. patients encountered poorly coordinated care, including medical records not available during an appointment or duplicated tests.
  • The U.S. stands out for patient costs, with 41 percent reporting they spent more than $1,000 on out-of-pocket costs in the past year. U.K. and Dutch patients were most protected against such costs.
  • Only one-quarter (26%) of U.S. and Canadian patients reported same-day access to doctors when sick, and one-fourth or more reported long waits. About half or more of Dutch (60%), New Zealand, (54%), and U.K. (48%) patients were able to get same-day appointments.
  • A majority of respondents across the eight countries saw room for improvement. Chronically ill adults in the U.S. were the most negative; one-third said the health care system needs a complete overhaul.
  • In the past two years, 59 percent of U.S. patients visited an emergency room (ER); only Canada had a higher rate (64%). In both countries, one of five patients said they went to the ER for a condition that could have been treated by a regular doctor if one had been available.
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