Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ranking Nations' Healthcare: US Isn't No. 1 ; A First-Ever Comparison of Healthcare Quality Could Give More Impetus to Change the US Private-Public System

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Ranking Nations' Healthcare: US Isn't No. 1 ; A First-Ever Comparison of Healthcare Quality Could Give More Impetus to Change the US Private-Public System

Article excerpt

Americans spend twice as much on healthcare as other countries, but it turns out that they're not getting twice the quality for the price when they go to the doctor or hospital.

In the first international comparison of healthcare quality, researchers found that of the five countries studied, none is consistently the best or the worst. For instance, Australia had the best breast-cancer screening, but the worst survival rates for childhood leukemia. This was best in Canada, but that country had the worst heart-attack survival rates. And while the United States led the way in five-year survival rates from breast cancer, it was the worst for kidney transplants.

The conclusion: Each country has something to learn from the others.

"This affords the potential for comparing ... and improving healthcare outcomes," says Gerard Anderson, director of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Benchmarks set

The goal of the study is to set the first benchmarks for comparing and eventually improving healthcare outcomes around the world - as well as to see whether patients are getting what they pay for.

It's already prompted international action. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is using it as a model to create a similar study that will encompass more than 20 countries around the world.

The study is also already affecting how patients are cared for. For instance, the Canadians are looking at ways to improve their treatment for heart-attack patients.

But researchers concluded that it was the Americans who should take particular note of the findings.

"The US should be particularly concerned about this report," says Arnold Epstein, chairman of the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard University's School of Public Health in Boston. …

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