Compared to patients in at least 7 other countries, chronically ill people in the United States have a lot to be upset about. First off, they are likely to experience more medical errors than their foreign counterparts. Next, they are more likely to forgo treatment or not fill prescriptions because of costs. Additionally, they face a high rate of coordination problems. Finally, their out-of-pocket costs will be much higher than people in other parts of the world.

A survey of some 7,500 chronically ill patients was recently completed involving eight countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each of the persons surveyed needed medical attention for at least one condition that is considered to be chronic and in need of regular care. In each of the categories surveyed, the medical system in the U.S. fared low by comparison to patient treatment and satisfaction in the rest of the sampled countries.

It may seem hard to believe that 54 percent of the chronically ill patients in America did not see a doctor, fill prescriptions or get the recommended medical care because of the cost involved. Here we have what is supposed to be the finest of medical care anywhere in the world and over half of the residents of the country who need it the most are unable to avail themselves of it due to costs.
In the United States, one-third of this group reported being the subject of a medical error. This included being given an incorrect prescription, an incorrect dosage of medicine and receiving incorrect test results. The Netherlands reported the lowest incidence of medical error at 17 percent, followed by Germany at 19 percent.

Additionally, U.S. chronically ill patients often experienced delays in seeing primary care physicians and had difficulty getting care after hours. Only one-quarter of U.S. patients reported same-day access to their doctors when they were sick and another one-quarter reported long waits. However, when it came to specialist care, U.S. patients had the shortest waiting times. Waits for specialists were the longest in Canada, the UK and in New Zealand.

Finally, the out-of-pocket costs for Americans were the highest of any other country surveyed. Forty-one percent of U.S. patients spent more than $1,000 out-of-pocket in the past year compared with only 4 percent of people in the UK who reached this mark and 8 percent in the Netherlands.
The study was conducted by the Commonwealth Fund and published in the journal 

Health Affairs
. “The study highlights major problems in our broken healthcare system and the need to make major changes,” said Commonwealth Fund Senior Vice President Cathy Schoen, the study’s lead author. “Patients are telling us about inefficient, unsafe and often wasteful care.”

“The U.S. is not only facing economic crisis, we are facing a health system crisis,” said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis. “Our leaders need to come together to develop reforms which will make lasting improvements for patients.

With the U.S. outspending all other countries, we can’t afford not to reform our healthcare system to secure a healthier future.”

Source: The Commonwealth Fund. “New International Survey: More Than Half of U.S. Chronically Ill Adults Skip Needed Care Due to Costs.” November 2008.