Canada ranks 23rd out of 30 countries surveyed in the “consumer friendliness” of its health care system, says a new report compiled by European and Canadian researchers.
The study undertaken by a pair of private think tanks – the Winnipeg-based Frontier Centre for Public Policy and Brussels-based Health Consumer Powerhouse – measured Canada’s performance against that of 29 European nations.
It found Canada scored well in terms of medical outcomes, a category that included factors such as heart attack and cancer survival rates and data on a range of other medical procedures.
But the Canadian score plunged in areas such as waiting times for treatment, range of services available, ready access to new drugs and some diagnostic tools, and the legal rights of patients.
Austria was at the top of the list, with an overall score of 806 of a possible 1,000 points on a complex statistical grid.
The next five finishers in order were the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Germany and Sweden.
Canada was three-quarters of the way down the list with 550 points out of 1,000, a showing that was better than countries like Latvia and Poland but not as good as the U.K., Czech Republic, Spain and Estonia.
The study is billed as the first annual Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index, although it consists essentially of plugging Canadian data into European rankings that have been published for the last several years.
Comparing Canada with Europe, rather than with its next-door neighbour the United States, offers a better picture of the state of national health care, say the study’s sponsors.
“The Canadian health care system _ publicly financed and governed _ has much more in common with most European systems than it does with the American one,” said a joint statement by Johan Hjertqvist of Health Consumer Powerhouse and Peter Holle, president of the Frontier Centre.
They promised another report later this year comparing Canadian provinces with each other to “support further debate” about health care in Canada.
Hjertqvist has made a name in his native Swede, and across Europe, as an advocate of a greater role for private medical services within an overall system that is publicly funded.
The Frontier Centre describes itself as non-partisan and independent, but critics say it has a decidedly right-wing philosophy.
The organization was at the centre of a controversy last year when it was given a contract by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper to study electoral reform – even though it was already on record as favouring the current first-past-the-post system.
The consumer health study notes that “no one country excels across the entire range” of statistical indicators used to compile the rankings.
It notes, however, that countries with “pluralistic financing” – systems that feature multiple insurers and a for-profit component – generally score high on issues like patient rights and access to medical records and information.
By contrast, countries like Canada suffer from an “expert-driven attitude” that isn’t as consumer friendly.
The thumbnail verdict on Canada is: “Solid outcomes, moderate to poor provision levels and very poor scores with regard to patients’ rights and accessibility.”
The study also notes that Canada spends more on health care than any other country surveyed, even though it obtains poorer than average results.
That means Canada ranks dead last out of 30 on yet another statistical grid called the Bang for the Buck index.