Austria leads in European health care study

Austria is the best in consumer health care in Europe, but Estonia gives patients the best value for money, a study said Monday.

Health Consumer Powerhouse, a Swedish private initiative providing consumer health information, released its third annual Euro Health Consumer Index, which examines health care systems from the patient point of view.

Data was taken from all 27 EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland, which are the two biggest spenders in health care, according to HCP. Indicators were based on performance, patient perspective and legislation, not national wealth.

"Greece and Italy have systems where doctors play God," said HCP project manager Arne Bjornberg. "That doesn't give you very consumer friendly health care."

Austria leads the health consumer index overall with a combined score of 806 out of a maximum of 1,000.

However it did not rank highest in any of the individual categories - patients in Denmark were found to have the most generous rights and access to information and Belgium has the shortest wait times. Sweden has the best medical results - including cancer 5-year survival and infant mortality rates.

Latvia had the lowest overall score, with 435 points out of 1000.

Annual health care spending varies, according to the index, from approximately US$600 (EUR423) in Bulgaria and Romania to US$5,000 (Ђ3,526) in Norway, Switzerland and Luxembourg.

When the scores were adjusted to reflect the value citizens get for the money they spend, Estonia was the clear winner, well ahead of runner-up Austria. The Netherlands, Finland and France followed closely behind.

HCP found countries where insurance organizations are independent of health care providers to be superior to those where health care, financing and provision are handled within one organizational system.

The report suggests that nations could greatly benefit by borrowing from one another's best qualities. "Just look across borders and steal the best ideas from your neighbors," Bjornberg told a news conference. "It would be a pretty good health care system."

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Author`s name Angela Antonova