Comparative Health Care: What can Britain teach the U.S.?2 min read
Healthy travel usually requires some understanding of how health care systems work in different parts of the world. This post is the first in a new series to help broaden our understanding by looking at practices outside the U.S. Of course, the current health care reform efforts in the United States make this information more topical than usual and help to increase awareness about instructive differences between countries.
The United Kingdom is our location today. A post recently appeared on the New England Journal of Medicine’s web site titled “British Lessons on Health Care Reform.” This article tries to dispel myths about socialized medicine and the often maligned National Health Service (NHS) with facts about improvements that they have implemented in the last decade. It specifically calls to attention the importance of having strong primary care physician practices in place as well as the pivotal role of NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), an organization “established to provide a unifying national framework to offer guidance in public health, new health technologies, and clinical practice.”
While nothing is perfect, it’s common sense that having good primary care doctors that know their patients and their family history should result in improved health care at a lower cost. Good preventative care, better patient compliance with medications and other therapies and right-sizing treatment (no trips to the ER for something that can wait or be treated somewhere else) are all outcomes of a stronger primary care system.
NICE helps to determine best practices in a forum that includes all stakeholders and tries to find solutions to tough issues where costs are measured against quality of life issues.
How does this impact a world traveler visiting the U.K.? Well, it should give you confidence that there is quality health care available in the country. Sometimes that care can be free:
- Treatment given in an accident and emergency department (excludes emergency treatment given elsewhere in the hospital)
- Treatment given in a walk in center providing similar services to those of an accident and emergency department of a hospital
- Treatment for certain communicable diseases (excluding HIV/AIDS where it is only the first diagnosis and connected counseling sessions that are charge free)
- Compulsory psychiatric treatment
- Family planning services
In most cases, the traveler will need to pay for treatment; the NHS was established for UK residents.
Stay with us as we continue to explore health care systems around the globe.