Swiss health system gets good global marks

The Swiss did well in equity and access to care for patients, but costs are a problem Keystone

Switzerland’s health care ranks second overall among 11 wealthy nations surveyed by the United States-based Commonwealth Fund. But the Swiss system struggles with affordability, efficiency and effectiveness of care.

This content was published on June 17, 2014 - 12:03 and agencies

With per capita health expenditures of $5,643 (CHF5,079) in 2011, Switzerland also ranked second when it came to health care costs – behind the United States, where costs amounted to $8,508 per person.

Although the Swiss system got top marks for timeliness of care, it ranked just eighth in terms of efficiency, partially because of a lack of communication between specialists, hospitals and primary care physicians. In addition, 54% of doctors surveyed said that “time spent on admin­istrative issues related to insurance or claims is a major problem”.

And in the “effectiveness of care” category, the Swiss ranked eighth of 11 because fewer preventive care measures were taken than in other countries. For example, the survey showed that a doctor or clinical staff spoke to patients about quitting smoking just 47% of the time, compared to 86% in the Netherlands. And printing out a list of patients by diagnosis or producing a list of all medications taken by a patient was reported to be more difficult in Switzerland than in other countries. In Britain, for example, 98% of physicians said printing a comprehensive medication list was easy, compared to 46% in Switzerland.

The Swiss did especially well – placing second in each category – when it came to access to care, equity of care and patient-centred care.

The Commonwealth Fund

Currently, Switzerland has a privatised health care system where everyone is required to buy insurance that guarantees a certain level of coverage.

Supplementary plans can be purchased to cover additional needs. In 2012, on average, CHF709 ($789) was spent per month on health care for each person in Switzerland.

The Swiss are preparing to vote on introducing a single-payer, public health care system similar to that in Britain. A similar referendum, which differed from the current proposal in that it would have fixed premium rates by income, failed in 2007.

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