Canada’s Bedside Manner Ranks Poorly

Media Appearances, Healthcare & Welfare, Frontier Centre

Canada is at the bottom of the pack for the consumer friendliness of its health care system, according to a new report that compared it with 29 European nations.

The Frontier Centre for Public Policy, a Winnipeg based think-tank, used Canadian data to rank how it would score on the Euro Health Consumer Index. It found that Canada placed 23rd.

And when researchers took into consideration how much countries spend on health care, Canada ranked last on the “bang-for-the-buck” scale.

The report, published in conjunction with a Brussels based group called Health Consumer Powerhouse, views patients as the consumers of health care systems. The benchmarking exercise analyzed “consumer responsiveness” among the 30 countries.

“Our performance is marked by very few bright spots,” the report said.

It noted there is “excellent treatment in emergency rooms” but said that, overall, Canada fares poorly for its consumer, or patient, friendliness.

The group used 27 indicators to score each country’s system on its performance in five different categories.

Austria ranked first, followed closely by the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Germany. Scoring 806 out of a possible 1,000 points, the report said Austria provides good access for patients and produces very good medical results. Canada scored 550 points.

With respect to clinical outcomes, Canada compared well with the top European systems. It scored 12 out of a maximum 15 points on measures like infant mortality and cancer survival rates.

The generosity of the system was measured according to the breadth of services provided and the rate at which insured services are offered. With the exception of doing well in providing sight restoration surgeries, the report says Canada fails to measure up.

It also failed to measure up in the categories of patient rights and access to information, waiting times and accessibility and the provision of pharmaceuticals.

In the pharmaceuticals category, which measured the availability of drugs and the speed at which new medications are made available to consumers, Canada placed only above Latvia, Bulgaria and Lithuania.

“Our provision of pharmaceuticals is also very stingy, compared with Europe, in which medication is more accessible to patients, and new treatments are used more readily. Since effective use of drugs is tied both to better outcomes and fiscal savings, poor performance in this indicator is linked to other health care problems,” the report said.

Michael McBane, national co-ordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition, cautions that the report comes from a think-tank and would have more credibility if it were published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.

But Dr. Brian Day, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said the report is valuable, especially because it compares Canada with other countries with universal health care systems. Dr. Day said he likes that the report took a patient-focused approach.

“Patients in Canada tend to serve the system rather than the other way around. I think it does illustrate that Canadian patients need to be empowered more in the system so that they have more of a say than they presently do,” Dr. Day said.

The CMA president also said that the report shows Canada needs to get more creative in how it delivers health care.

“It shows we’re not getting value for money, we’re not performing at the level that a rich and successful country should perform at,” he said.