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The U.S. Health System in Perspective: A Comparison of Twelve Industrialized Nations


Canada, Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, France, Australia


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.

Publication Details

Publication Date: July 27, 2011
Author: David Squires

D. A. Squires, The U.S. Health System in Perspective: A Comparison of Twelve Industrialized Nations, The Commonwealth Fund, July 2011.


Former Senior Researcher to the President, The Commonwealth Fund