The U.S. health system in perspective: a comparison of twelve industrialized nations

Issue Brief (Commonw Fund). 2011 Jul;16:1-14.


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) tracks and reports on more than 1,200 health system measures across 34 industrialized countries. This analysis concentrated on 2010 OECD health data for Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Health care spending in the U.S. towers over the other countries. The U.S. has fewer hospital beds and physicians, and sees fewer hospital and physician visits, than in most other countries. Prescription drug utilization, prices, and spending all appear to be highest in the U.S., as does the supply, utilization, and price of diagnostic imaging. U.S. performance on a limited set of quality measures is variable, ranking highly on five-year cancer survival, middling on in-hospital case-specific mortality, and poorly on hospital admissions for chronic conditions and amputations due to diabetes. Findings suggest opportunities for cross-national learning to improve health system performance.

MeSH terms

  • Amputation / statistics & numerical data
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Delivery of Health Care / trends
  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / statistics & numerical data
  • Diagnostic Imaging / trends
  • Forecasting
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Expenditures / trends
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Resources / supply & distribution
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Length of Stay / trends
  • Mortality / trends
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data
  • Office Visits / trends
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Admission / trends
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / trends