Americans Not Happy About Health Care

Medical Authors and Editors: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D. and Frederick Hecht, M.D.

October 28, 2004 -- A very important report has been released today by the Commonwealth Fund concerning primary health care and the news is not good for the United States. Americans are most unhappy about the care they receive.

Primary Care

Primary care is at the center of medical care systems. It provides an entry point to health care, delivers core medical and preventive care, and helps patients coordinate and integrate care. Ready access to effective primary care also offers the potential to reduce disparities in care, increasing people's opportunities to live healthy, productive lives. The challenge is how to redesign primary care to make care more accessible, continuous, coordinated, patient-centered and engage patients in their own care

The Survey

A survey was done by the Commonwealth Fund of primary care experiences in 5 industrialized countries -- Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and US. Shortfalls were found in the delivery of safe, effective, timely, and patient-centered care. Delays in lab test results and test errors raise safety concerns. Failures to communicate, to engage patients, and to promote health are widespread. Aside from clinical preventive care, the US performed poorly on most care dimensions, with notable cost-related access concerns and short-term physician relationships.