RESTON, Va.; April 12, 2010 - Facilitating fair and easy access to health care services and ensuring prompt, effective resolutions to problems or difficulties that patients and the public experience with health services are two of the top actions people desire most from their governments, according to a new 16-country health care report from Accenture (NYSE: ACN). The survey also found that failing to ensure that citizens are engaged in the decision-making process related to health services is an area where government performance is perceived to be weakest.
The 2010 Accenture Citizen Experience Study (ACES) examined respondents' sentiments on the importance of 16 actions to improve the quality of health and health care services, as well as their perceptions of how well governments are performing in relation to each. In some countries, government acts directly through a publicly owned health system (such as the National Health Service in the United Kingdom); in others, government influences the activities of independent health service agencies-for instance, through regulation-to ensure that these things happen.
The actions map to the four components of Accenture's Public Service Value Governance Framework: focus on improved social and economic outcomes; a balance of increased flexibility and choice in service provision with ensuring common good; building on public engagement initiatives to educate citizens and enable them to contribute to improving the quality of life; and greater transparency and accountability to the public.
"It's interesting and encouraging that despite cultural, socioeconomic and other differences among the 16 countries, there is a great deal of consensus around the need for government to help provide fair and equal access to health care. But governments must do more in enabling people to play a role in helping shape the policies and programs to achieve that access," said Greg Parston, director of Accenture's Institute for Health & Public Service Value. "We've see consistently in our research that citizens want to be co-producers of public value."
Respondents worldwide consistently expressed a desire for governments to take action to help people who may have difficulties using health services - especially the elderly and disabled - to gain easier access. In fact, 79 percent of respondents rated this as an essential or very important action for governments, ranking it among the top three citizen-desired actions for governments to take in all 16 countries.
The research uncovered global consensus in favor of government acting as a mediator; that is, stepping in to take prompt and effective action to resolve problems or difficulties that patients and the public experience with health services. On average, 75 percent of respondents rate this as an essential or very important government action-making it one of the top three actions in terms of performance-yet only 26 percent think government is performing it well-representing the biggest gap between importance and performance.
Finally, across the geographies, respondents said government isn't doing enough to engage them and seek their input before deciding on the priorities for health care services. Respondents in 10 of the 16 countries view this as an area where government is performing least well, with just 21 percent of respondents, on average, rating government performance as very or fairly good.
The dramatic rise in costs-driven by inefficiencies, fraud and insurance reform-has U.S. respondents feel that there is too much bureaucracy and inefficiency in the system, and one-third cited fraud and abuse as a concern.
However, when asked to identify the single most important action for government to improve health care, respondents prioritized the need for government to reform the health insurance system to make health care and health insurance more affordable for everyone.
"Americans' concerns about health care costs have masked other potential issues. Cost will remain important, but as individual concerns about cost diminish, we expect a shift," Parston said. "What people should take away from the experience of other countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom-even though the U.S. health care system is not going to mirror either of these-is the potential for increased concern about quality, appointment waiting times, availability and use of staff."
*Research for this study was conducted prior to the enactment of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and does not reflect the public's opinion about the new legislation or its impact.
The Accenture Institute for Health & Public Service Value, working with Ipsos MORI, surveyed more than 16,000 people of the general adult population of 16 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. Data were weighted to be representative of the general populations of residents at least 18 years' old, except in India, where data were representative of the online population. Researchers conducted interviews mostly online** between December 2009 and February 2010.
**Researchers interviewed participants in Brazil and Mexico by telephone.
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 181,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world's most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$21.58 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2009. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
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Peter Y. Soh