The sixth Euro Health Consumer Index report has just been released by Health Consumer Powerhouse. The report ranks 34 countries for how well their healthcare systems perform in five areas: Patient rights, accessibility, outcomes, prevention and pharmaceuticals. In combination, weighing these areas against each other can indicate how well the consumer is being served by their respective healthcare systems. This index gives reality checks for policy makers, empowers patients and gives stakeholders an opportunity to highlight weak and strong aspects of their healthcare systems. The EHCI has become the industry standard for helping to improve patients' rights in more countries. Today, distributing information to help consumers navigate healthcare systems is becoming common practice and devices to simplify access are becoming more frequent, such as e-prescriptions and internet-bookings of appointments.
Findings show that the power gap between the medical professionals and their patients is closing. For the first time, second opinions and medical records are tools of empowerment for patients as well as shared decision-making in a majority of countries. Sharing quality information about care providers has developed from being a unique phenomenon to a common platform on which consumers make better health care choices for themselves. Reliable pharmaceutical websites for lay-persons have spread across most European countries, undermining the attitude that information about medicine from manufacturers is dangerous.
The EHCI 2012 ranking included 34 countries in Europe. These countries includes Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Rep., Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Macedonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemborg, Malta, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.
They were ranked in five categories:
- Patient rights and information
- Waiting time for treatment / Accessibility
- Prevention / Range and reach of services provided
According to the ranking, Netherlands provides the best patient care with a total score of 872 from a possible score of 1000, making them the only country which has consistently been among the top three performers in any EHCI ranking since 2005. Netherlands benefits from have a multitude of healthcare insurance providers competing against each other and it also has the best structured arrangement allowing patient organisations to participate in healthcare policy making in Europe.
Denmark took second place with the introduction of e-Health. The Danish healthcare system improved drastically on accessibility by setting up 160 primary care centres which have open surgeries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Given the small size of the country, this should put an open clinic within easy reach for everyone. Denmark scored a total of 822 points, scoring high on information sharing which gives more choice to consumers. Also having a hospital registry on the internet showing which hospitals have the best medical results empowers consumers.
Iceland came in third on the ranking with a total of 799 points. Iceland has built a system of healthcare services, which has the capacity of servicing a couple of million people but which is serving only 300,000 Icelanders. In southern Europe, Spain and Italy provide healthcare services were medical excellence can be found in many places. Yet in southern Europe, healthcare seems to be too dependent on the consumers' ability to afford private healthcare and not on public healthcare.
Generally, advising on how to address the weakness of European healthcare, Dr. Björnberg explained that there are lessons to be learned by other countries from the Netherlands. Their healthcare seems to be able to deal with new conditions and delivers top results. They have implemented many improvements, focus on consumer empowerment, have better treatment outcomes and expanded the range and reach of the system. They lead in pharmaceuticals and are planning to increase accessibility, which could be better.
Healthcare officials and Governments should look across borders and take on board lessons learned elsewhere. No need to reinvent the wheel! They should examine good ideas and examples from their EU colleagues to give them a better chance of improving their own healthcare systems.