You could go on and on like this, but you know what? No matter how good or bad your healthcare system is, there are certain universal truths. Here are four of them that might make you look at global healthcare a little differently:
First, healthcare is getting more expensive, all over the world. A new study by the global consultant, Towers Watson (disclosure: Towers Watson is a Best Doctors client) found that the average medical cost trend around the world will be 10.5 percent in 2011. In the advanced economies costs will rise by an average of 9.3 percent. While Americans tend to think of rising medical costs as a uniquely American problem (they’ll rise by 9.9 percent here), it’s just not true. Canadian costs will rise by 13.3 percent. In the UK and Switzerland, they will increase by 9.5 percent, and in France by 8.4 percent.
Why is it happening? As ever, the main drivers are the increasing availability of new medical therapies — and inappropriate use of care. We see the same phenomenon at Best Doctors in our global experience. Across the world, our data for 2010 showed that just over 20 percent of patients had an incorrect diagnosis, and about half were pursuing inappropriate treatment plans.
Second, consumers are increasingly dissatisfied with their healthcare experience. The Commonwealth Fund’s 2010 survey on views of healthcare found that 68 percent of Americans think their healthcare system needs to be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt. But 61 percent of Canadians thought the same thing, as did 58 percent of French people, 52 percent of Swiss, 48 percent of the Dutch, and 75 percent of Australians. All of these places have remarkably different systems, and yet none of them are very well-liked at all.
Third, time spent dealing with insurance restrictions is a major barrier to quality care in the United States — but it’s becoming a problem elsewhere, too. According to the Commonwealth Fund, 48 percent of American doctors said that coverage restrictions were a “major problem” getting in the way of delivering needed care. While it’s less of a problem outside the U.S., nearly 20 percent of Canadian doctors reported the same problem. As other countries adopt U.S.-style cost controls to deal with the rising cost of care, it’s likely that doctors in those countries, too, will start to report the same trouble.
Fourth, some employers, insurers, and governments are looking for a better way. The Towers Watson study reflected something we found in our own study. Payers are increasingly implementing programs to get people to take better care of themselves and be more involved in their healthcare decisions. Programs like wellness and prevention and higher deductible plans are part of an overall approach to getting consumers more engaged in their health. But one of the fastest growth areas is still what some call “second opinion” — programs like what Best Doctors provides — where the goal is to help make sure that every person gets the right diagnosis and treatment. Towers Watson found that 25 percent of healthcare payers across the globe have implemented these programs. They help make sure each person is dealt with as a patient, regardless of how good or how bad their healthcare system might be.
So, who really has the worst healthcare system? I don’t think there’s an answer to that question, except for this: Don’t get sick.
*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*