Regina: The Frontier Centre for Public Policy and the Belgian-based Health Consumer Powerhouse today released the 3rd annual Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index (ECHCI). The Index evaluates the consumer-friendliness of Canada’s healthcare system. It compares Canada to 33 European countries by assessing the extent to which each national healthcare system meets the needs of healthcare users.
In the study, analysts from the Frontier Centre and the Health Consumer Powerhouse compare the 34 national healthcare systems across five different “sub-disciplines:” Patient Rights and Access to Information, Wait Times, Patient Outcomes, Range and Reach of Services and Access to Pharmaceuticals.
The report shows that despite high levels of government spending, healthcare in Canada is markedly less responsive to consumers’ needs than most European countries. Findings include:
- For the second straight year, the Netherlands finishes with the highest overall score on the ECHCI. As with most of the top-performing countries, the Netherlands promotes efficiency in healthcare delivery by allowing competition between insurers, and by maintaining independence between insurers and healthcare providers.
- Canada showed some signs of improvement in this year’s index. Canada made minor improvements in its score in four of the five categories of indicators, with its score remaining unchanged in the fifth category.
- The greatest weakness of Canadian healthcare remains long wait times. Wait times in Canada for diagnostic exams such as an MRI can last for months; in comparison, the typical wait time in top European countries is less than one week. Wait times for orthopaedic surgeries such as hip replacements are also much longer in Canada than in most European countries.
- Patient rights and access to information is another weak point for Canada. Bureaucratic obstacles and long waits often make it difficult for Canadians to access a second opinion about their own medical status, and patient rights are not codified in an explicit legislative guarantee
- Access to the newest medicines is also somewhat delayed in Canada compared to Europe. It takes an average of 314 days for newly approved medicines to be entered in to provincial subsidy systems in Canada, compared to less than 150 days in countries like Ireland and Germany.
“This year’s ECHCI suggests that Canada has started to take some steps in the right direction,” says Ben Eisen, a co-author of the study. “We still have a long way to go before Canada can claim to have a world-class, healthcare system that is responsive to the needs of consumers.”
“Most importantly, Canadians still face excessively long waiting periods for care. Canada spends as much money as the top performers on healthcare like the Netherlands and Germany, but we haven’t been able to match their levels of efficiency. By looking at our own areas of relative weakness and examining European best practices, we can better understand where improvement is most needed and what sorts of reforms are likely to bring about measurable progress.”
The policy series, Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index 2010, can be found HERE.
For additional comments and/or background on the study, contact:
Policy Analyst, Frontier Centre for Public Policy