Twenty years since Switzerland adopted then-controversial mandatory basic health insurance, an overwhelming number of Swiss are satisfied with their national healthcare system – but are less positive about their own health.
A survey released on Thursday by the research and polling institute GfS Bern found that 81% of Swiss respondents had either a “very positive” or a “rather positive” impression of the healthcare system, roughly the same as the previous year.
Political scientist Claude Longchamp, who retired from his position as the director of GfS Bern in May, said the current healthcare system is based on a law “that is widely supported, and we have a range of services that meet the requirements of the public”.
On the negative side, he added, “the voters aren’t feeling healthier, and that is not insignificant”.
There has been a gradual but significant increase in the popularity of the federal law that since 1996 requires everyone living in Switzerland to have access to adequate care through compulsory basic health insurance.
People pay for it in per capita premiums, in a system that is highly regarded around the world.
In 1996, only a narrow margin of 51% were in favour of it, and 49% were against it. For the latest results, the polling firm spoke with 1,210 Swiss who were eligible to vote in the spring of 2016.
The Swiss who were surveyed also said they believed the services that are offered are of very high (24%) or high (51%) quality.
Swiss values like high performance, ability to choose, and federalism also played a role in the survey responses, according to Urs Bieri, co-director of GfS Bern.
Trends over time
Until 2000, between 85% and 95% of people surveyed described their health status as ‘very good’, ‘good’ or ‘rather good’, Longchamp said. In 2016, the two categories ‘very good’ and ‘good’ together represent 60% of those surveyed.
But in the past 10-15 years, according to Longchamp, there has been a trend toward complaining less about physical problems and more about psychological problems, which are associated with symptoms of stress.
Today, he said, a growing number of people (30-40%) are not interested in healthcare themes or health policies.
“There is a tendency toward oversaturation”, and as a result, although there is a certain level of acceptance of the health insurance law, “we haven’t succeeded in increasing healthcare competence,” he said.
Information and decision-making
Today, many consumers search for healthcare information over the Internet.
“People use the Internet to inform themselves, but not for decision-making,” Bieri told swissinfo.ch. Medical information can be confusing, and needs to be presented with context, he said. Here, physicians can play an important role.
The idea of comparison shopping for hospitals on the Internet is not yet widely developed in Switzerland, said Bieri.
People in Switzerland “evaluate vacation resorts, they evaluate restaurants, they evaluate health insurance companies,” he said.
“It’s possible to extend this to hospitals,” Bieri added. “But unlike a vacation destination, which someone with general knowledge can evaluate, medicine is much more complex, and I can’t imagine that a person, a potential patient, wants to decide alone whether a particular hospital is ideal for his particular circumstances.”
The survey has been carried out each year for the past 20 years, and is supported by Interpharma, the association for pharmaceutical research companies in Switzerland. Several current topics are introduced each year in addition to a range of issues that recur.
In 2016, continuing education was one of the new themes. In the view of 89% of people surveyed, continuing education for doctors is important for the quality of medical care.
And 88% believe that both physicians and researchers in the pharmaceutical industry profit from collaboration with one another.
For 74%, financial support of doctors’ continuing education by the pharma industry is not problematic as long as it’s transparent.