International study finds U.S. behind in access, quality

If spending alone could provide the best care to patients, the U.S. would be way ahead. Unfortunately, as most readers know, America's access to care and the quality of that care doesn't stack up well against that provided in many other countries with lower spending.

Yesterday, the Commonwealth Fund released a new 11-country study which underscores that point, based on a survey of more than 10,000 primary-care physicians in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

Its key findings include the following:

* 58 percent of U.S. primary-care doctors reported that their patients often have difficult paying for meds and care.

* Half of U.S. doctors spend substantial time addressing restrictions on patient coverage imposed by health plans.

* 69 percent of U.S. doctors don't offer after-hours care, which channels more patients to the emergency department.

* 46 percent of U.S. doctors use EMRs, a low figure when compared with, for example, the 99 percent adoption rate in the Netherlands or 97 percent in New Zealand and Norway.

Researchers, whose conclusions appear in Health Affairs this month, conclude that the U.S. could improve by boosting continuity of care, giving patients access to primary care around the clock, creating medical home teams to manage care, using health IT to prevent errors and using financial incentives rewarding quality and efficiency.

To get data from the study:
- read this Commonwealth Fund press release

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