The reputation of the Canadian health care system suffered collateral damage in a new Commonwealth Fund study highlighting how poorly the U.S. health care system is performing relative to other developed countries.
While the U.S. ranked last in an international comparison of 11 countries in terms of five measures of performance, the report “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: How the Performance of the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally- 2014 Update” rated Canada only slightly better in 10th position.
The Commonwealth Fund study used survey data from the last three years to compare the health care systems in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Quality indicators were grouped into four categories: effective care, safe care, coordinated care, and patient-centered care.
Despite the U.S. having the lowest score overall, Canada scored last on a number of measures:
- Wait time for emergency care being two hours or more;
- Wait time to see a specialist being two months or more;
- Visiting an Emergency Department for condition that could have been treated by a general practitioner if he or she had been available;
- Delays in patients being informed about abnormal laboratory test results;
- Knowing who to contact about a condition or treatment;
- Physician practices being able to electronically exchange clinical summaries and test results with other practices.
The Canadian health care system outperformed the other countries on only one measure – that being in the health equity category where survey results showed patients with above-income and below-income had to wait a comparable time to see a specialist.
“It’s ironic that the one indicator in which Canada outperformed other nations actually reflects that we are doing an equally poor job across the socioeconomic spectrum in delivering timely care to Canadians,” said CMA president-elect Dr. Chris Simpson.
“The results in this study are not a surprise but they underscore the work that needs to be done in Canada to deal with issues ranging from unacceptable wait times to poor co-ordination of care and the less than ideal use of electronic systems to enhance health care delivery.”
“In this regard, being better than the U.S. is a hollow victory indeed.”
The results of this Commonwealth Study mirrored earlier studies from the organization over the past decade placing the Canadian health care system near the bottom of the list in comparison to the U.K. and other European countries.
Just weeks after a new report from the Wait Times Alliance – which Simpson chairs – advocated looking to Scotland for improving wait times for care in Canada, the Commonwealth study ranked the U.K. has the most efficient system among those evaluated.