2020 has focused public attention on the state of health care systems in every country across the globe. Along with this, a severe global recession has stretched available funding for public health. So which health care systems deliver the best quality of care with the available funding, and what can we learn from them?

Vantage Technologies have analysed OECD, WHO, UNDP and WorldBank data to reveal the countries that get the best health care and quality of life, for the most efficient spend.

The USA has the highest expenditure globally.

A per-person spend of $11,072 places the USA far ahead of every other country in health care expenditure. However, a life expectancy of just 78.5 years, health care coverage of only 84% and a HDI rank of 15th in the world doesn’t match up to this expenditure. In comparison, the Czech Republic, which spends a comparatively low $3,426 per person on health care, has a higher life expectancy of 79 years.

A comparison of the top 25 most expensive health care systems, comparing expenditure, health care coverage and average life expectancy

What causes this inefficient expenditure?

There are several reasons for this problem within the American health care system. A key issue is the full privatisation of health care, without a baseline right to treatment. Outside of the USA, a lot of countries have this baseline free health care, which means that private health care can’t exceed its value, or else more people will use public services. Because private health care systems don’t have this alternative to keep prices in check, they can charge excessively for their services.

The complicated structure of health care also has a significant impact on these expenditures. Administration fees alone cost US insurers and providers $812 billion in 2017, or 34.2% of national health expenditures that year.

The average life expectancy versus health care expenditure of different countries across the globe

How do other countries compare in expenditure?

Switzerland comes in at second most expensive, spending $7,732 per person. However, with the second-highest life expectancy, at 83.6 years, and the second-highest HDI rank in the world, this capital is effectively allocated.

How does the UK’s NHS compare?

Despite regular criticism, the National Health Service is effective when comparing the government spend versus the outcomes of human development and lifespan. While critics point to Switzerland achieving the lowest death rates in Europe, or Germany having a consistently quality health care system, they don’t compare these to the level of expenditure. In fact, the UK has a higher life expectancy than Germany, with lower health care funding than in other large economies. The Swiss spend $3,079 more on health care per person than the UK, while Germany spends $1,993 more per person than the UK. Critics can’t ignore these massive differences in expenditure when debating the outcomes that the NHS provides. If the UK matched Swiss expenditure per person, an additional $206 billion would be spent on health care annually.

How can we compare these different health care systems?

Vantage Technologies have taken the 25 most expensive health care systems across the world and compared them based on four key ranking factors. These are:

  • Total health spend per capita, in PPP Int$ – to analyse how cost-effective the health care system is. PPP Int$ is purchasing power parity international dollars, a hypothetically currency that has the same purchasing power parity as the international dollar currently has.
  • Health care coverage – to see how inclusive and accommodating the system in place is.
  • Average life span 2020 – a key metric in the effectiveness of a country’s health care, directly showing how living in that country affects life expectancy.
  • Human Development Index – a broader ranking measuring human development, in which life quality and healthy living is a crucial metric. HDI also measures education, which is vital to a healthy population and an integrated part of government health planning.
A ranking of the top 25 most expensive health care systems, comparing expenditure, health care coverage and average life expectancy

Singapore ranks as having the most efficient health care system.

Overall, Singapore takes the top spot. Placed 6th in the WHO’s ranking of health systems in 2000, and ranked by Bloomberg as the most efficient in the world in 2014, their health care system is highly regarded. There are many reasons why Singapore has a highly regarded model. 

To avoid the excessive use that entirely free services receive, individuals pay part of the cost, with the rest subsidised. This disincentivises individuals from consistently and unnecessarily using health care services they don’t require.

There is also a nationwide health insurance system – Medisave, whereby Singapore’s individuals contribute compulsory monthly payments that finance health care. This is government-controlled, to avoid the USA model of unrestricted medical insurance, whereby there is a monetary incentive to provide more expensive and unnecessary treatments.

Private decision-making on drugs used by the public sector also encourages all pharmaceutical companies to drop their prices to be in with a chance of drug subsidisation, rather than lobbying to place their drug in hospitals at a higher price. The UK’S NHS, for example, are much more transparent about the drugs they plan to subsidise, which can result in suppliers changing their pricing.

Administration is also incredibly efficient, with data shared across all departments to identify any inefficiencies and improve upon them. In 1997, half of ambulance calls were for non-emergencies. In response to this, Singapore introduced a few measures to discourage non-emergency calls. The government introduced a fee of $185 for those who called for non-emergencies. Alongside this, they delivered public education and messaging to highlight the situations that constituted an emergency and non-emergency.

This approach to reducing unnecessary health care costs wouldn’t have been possible without an integrated data system communicating between departments.

“The electronic health records are all connected, and data are shared between them,” said Dr. Marcus Ong, Singapore’s Emergency Medical Services director. “When patients are attended to for an emergency, records can be quickly accessed, and many nonemergencies can be then cleared with accurate information.

“By 2010, there were more than 120,000 calls for emergency services, and very few were for nonemergencies.”

How can health care systems become more efficient?

Vantage Technologies have listed three of the key areas that health care providers can optimise to reduce expenditure and improve outcomes.

Addressing overtreatment

Overtreatment is defined as a suboptimal ‘treatment that is excessive or too frequent.’ An example of overtreatment is the overprescribing of antibiotics that result in antibiotic-resistant bacterias. Overtreatment is as much a danger to a patient as undertreatment – both can result in adverse health effects. However, the unnecessary allocation of resources also increases health care costs. In a health care system where per patient spend is exceptionally high but lifespan remains low, overtreatment could be the causation. Personalising patient treatment, and avoiding enforcement of across the board treatments, aids optimising of treatment, as well as allocation of appropriate resources.

Disincentivising excessive use

While overtreatment is due to provider practises, excessive use is a result of patient behaviour yet is influenced by overall health and education policy. A key takeaway from Singapore’s success is the coordination of departments to reduce health care resource wastage. Utilising data on admissions and public behaviours that harm health care efficiency is an easy way to identify cases of excessive use. These can then be reduced with further education on the situations that constitute a trip to A&E or an ambulance call-out, targeted awareness of preventable emergencies, or fines for excess use. These practises influence public behaviour to decrease the burden on health care, increasing efficiency.

Streamlining administration

One of the highest costs in any health care system is administration, without any link between higher admin expenditure and better quality care. Certain systems, such as the US health care system, involve multiple private insurers which can drastically increase costs. A decentralised network of mostly private hospital owners also results in increased costs when moving and communicating between different services. A lack of overall data also reduces the ability to optimise and reform health care, as overseers can’t easily analyse issues within processes.

Martyn Goodhand, Managing Director at Vantage Technologies: “Data and administrative systems are the key to optimisation.

“Many health care systems that we analyse have a variety of software collecting data for different departments. These systems aren’t compatible and can’t communicate. So admin costs are then increased when the process could be automated by using the same system.

“Putting all of your data on the same system, in one place, can have many benefits. When you have an overall view of data and results, you can pinpoint areas of inefficiency and see the reasons why that might be the case. This can inform macro health care policy to increase efficiency.

“An immediate effect is a huge reduction in costs. In the USA, the standardisation of administrative processes could save up to $29,000 per physician annually.

“Even if you have a multi-system, multi-company health care structure, this can be integrated using a single software, for cross-boundary information gathering and sharing, with far less administration. We recommend that health care providers study their software systems and find a modular system that can provide the entire service on one platform.”

About Vantage Technologies

Vantage Technologies is a Sheffield-based provider of data management software modules that include multiple risk, safety, asset, and compliance products into one system. This software can be effectively utilised by any organisation or company looking to streamline their data input and retrieval procedures. Vantage’s software package provides the Vantage business database manager, a selection of software modules, reporting capabilities, security, and hosting. You can select modules based on your needs; all can be fully integrated with your current data management solutions for the efficient transfer of data between platforms, plus sending and receiving data from external organisations is effortlessly simple.

The Vantage platform provides integrated software solutions for the gathering and sharing of multi-agency, multi-company, multi-disciplinary, and cross-boundary information. Through the Enterprise Software Licence, unlimited users can access the software for unlimited applications, lowering software costs. Furthermore, if required, they can provide you with a development licence so you can custom develop software modules to your organisation’s specifications using extensive templates and datasets.

Vantage Technologies have also developed health & care management software to address issues of efficiency and productivity, allowing professionals working in the high-pressure environments of health and care provision to input and access data with improved accuracy and confidence. The commitments health and care providers make to the safety of their patients or clients and the highest quality of care can be undermined by an overly complex and ineffective data management system. Vantage are also trusted software providers for a variety of sectors, including charities and NFPs, and hospices

Get in touch with a trusted advisor to see how Vantage can optimise your systems.