Poor Safe Care ratings for the US

Originally posted 7-21-2010:
As a soccer fan, I really enjoyed watching the World Cup earlier this summer.  The final game came down to a tough battle between Spain and the Netherlands, with Spain bringing home the Cup for the first time ever.  Sadly for the Netherlands, it was the third time they fell just short of winning the final.

Even though the Netherlands can not claim to be number one in the world at soccer, they can claim to be number one in quality and high performance healthcare.  This is based on the results of the recently updated Commonwealth Fund survey titled Mirror, Mirror on the Wall.  The study surveyed and rated seven countries on attributes like quality of care, access to care, efficiency and compared it to health care expenditures per capita. The Netherlands received the top overall ranking as well as the top Safe Care ranking.

How did the US fare?  7th place...of the seven countries. In addition, the US had the highest health care expenditure per capita.  This is not exactly the kind of findings to brag about.  I want to highlight that in the category of Safe Care, the US also ended up last.  Some of the highlights (or lowlights) from the Safe Care section include:

  • "Among those who had a lab test in the previous two years, sicker adults in the U.S. were more likely to have been given incorrect medication or experience delays in being notified about abnormal results.
  • "Canada, Germany, and the U.S. lag in terms of using IT to receive computerized alerts or prompts about potential problems with drug doses or interactions"
  • 16 percent of the respondents believed a medical mistake was made during their treatment in the last two years.
The report did say caution should be taken on relying only on patient's perceptions to rank safety, but even that perception may have a lot of significance.  I would say that it is very significant the perception of unsafe care is coming from the patients.  You have to wonder about the trust levels from the general public in regards to their healthcare. I also find it hard to swallow that patients in this country pay a lot of money for healthcare that has such poor safety ratings.

The report is already highlighting some of the safety issues that are already known.  I don't think anything new has come to light about the quality and safety of healthcare in this country, but it represents a reality check in a report card format on where we are currently.  Needless to say, there is still a lot of work to be done.

I'll be on vacation next week.  Take some time to glance over the report and contemplate the results. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.