How the U.S. stacks up against other countries when it comes to doctors, healthcare

Women doctors
Former Soviet bloc countries outpace the U.S. when it comes to the number of women physicians.

There’s a vast difference in healthcare resources—including the number of doctors who care for patients—across the world. So how does the U.S. stack up?

A new report compared healthcare in various countries and put numbers to some of the common inequalities, but also came up with some surprising findings about U.S. healthcare.

The report, prepared by insurance broker Medicare Supplement, analyzed data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to study which countries make care widely available and which struggle with too few providers. 

Among the findings:

Numbers of doctors

When it comes to practicing physicians, there are only two physicians for every 1,000 Americans, nearly half the ratio of countries with nationalized public healthcare. Countries with nationalized systems saw the greatest increase in the number of physicians relative to their population.

For example, in Denmark the number more than doubled between 1980 and 2014, while the U.S. saw a difference of a little over 21% between 1993 and 2014, the period for which data was available.The Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of between about 41,000 and 105,000 doctors by 2030 in the U.S.

Gender equality

In the U.S., women physicians make up about a third of the current workforce. The report found many nations with enviable health indicators still have less-than-desirable records on gender equality. In Japan and South Korea, only about one in five practicing physicians is female, a gap which is only slightly smaller here.

While physicians are mostly male in the vast majority of countries, former Soviet bloc countries are particularly likely to see women doctors, which most researchers attribute to government efforts to encourage women to enter the field. Finland, a country with a progressive record of gender equality, also boasts a high rate of female doctors.

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Immunization rates

The U.S. ranks 28 on the list of countries with the highest immunization rates, trailing behind countries such as Mexico, Russia and Brazil.

Number of hospitals

Japan boasts the most hospitals per capita, 67.9 per million people. Relative to other developed nations, the U.S. has relatively few hospitals per capita, 18.6 per million, which the report speculates may be due to recent mergers.

Hospital beds

U.S. hospitals have only enough bed space for three people per 1,000 residents. That’s half of what other developed countries, such as France and Belgium, provide.

The U.S. has seen the number of beds per capita decline nearly 70% since 1960. However, that's also been matched by a reduction in the average length of hospital stays, which has consistently decreased worldwide.