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Vienna´s weekly European journal

Study shows Austria has the best health care system in Europe in 2007

Archived article from: 
Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Study shows Austria has the best health care system in Europe in 2007


Top spot in Europe for Austria's health care system: nowhere else in Europe are patients treated more quickly and their medical needs better attended to. This has been revealed by a current study in the EU.

"Austria a worthy winner" - European leader in medical care
The study was compiled by Health Consumer Powerhouse, a renowned Swedish organisation of health experts with headquarters in Stockholm and offices in Brussels. Every year, they compile a ranking list of the best health care systems in the EU member states plus Switzerland and Norway. Austria has jumped 5 places up from last year and received the gold medal this year.

This makes the Austrians the leaders in medical care in the whole of Europe, ahead of the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Germany. The reason: "A generous health care system with excellent access to doctors for patients and very good medical results." Austria is "a worthy winner" and also has the best cancer survival rates in the whole of Europe. Shortcomings are found above all in patient information.

Better health care, lower expenditure
According to this expert study, Austria not only has the most consumer-friendly health care system in Europe, but also performs better than countries like Switzerland or Luxembourg which spend considerably more money on medical care. Austria spends 2,186 euros per head per year, Luxembourg spends 3,526 euros, Switzerland and Norway roughly 2,820 euros.


Short waiting periods - direct access to doctors - good treatment results
Key factors in Austria's top ranking were the extremely short waiting periods for visits to the doctor and emergency operations, direct access to doctors and good treatment results. Same day visits to a GP are possible in Austria, the study's authors point out and the waiting period for the beginning of radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer is under three weeks. The chances of surviving a heart attack or cancer are also good in Austria: for heart attacks, they are more than 92%, and 60% of cancer patients survive longer than five years. Moreover, new drugs are adopted by the health insurance system comparatively quickly (within less than 150 days).

Longer waiting periods for non-emergency operations
The study's authors judged Austria to be middle-ranking as far as waiting periods for non-emergency operations such as bypass surgery or hip replacement are concerned. 50 to 90% of patients had to wait more than 90 days. Belgium, Germany and Switzerland lead the way in Europe in this respect. The study also criticises the fact that there is no general insurance against treatment errors in Austria and that patient organisations are not sufficiently involved in such cases. Therefore, compensation matters are usually decided in court.


Information shortcomings
The Austrian health care system's greatest weaknesses, in study author Arne Björnberg's opinion, concern patient information. When a patient in Austria wants to know something about health, he is told to go to the doctor, according to Björnberg. He believes it would be more cost-effective and efficient to encourage the patients to get initial information over the phone or on the internet, as is the practice in Great Britain or Denmark.

Europe: three-tier system in health care - Czech cutting-edge medicine
All in all, the study's authors diagnose a three-tier system in Europe's health care: A small group, currently led by Austria, offers top medical care. A middle group does its best to provide adequate care and is rapidly improving. The third and largest group lags far behind, lacks medical equipment and relies on reforms. Most of these last countries are in Eastern Europe. There are two major exceptions to this trend. The best health care systems among the new EU countries are to be found in Estonia in 12th place and the Czech Republic in 15th place, both ahead of countries like Great Britain, Italy or Greece.

Health Consumer Powerhouse Brussels office

Press release

OECD Health