Austria has the best healthcare service in the European Union, a survey by watchdog Health Consumer Powerhouse has found.

The Euro Health Consumer Index is an annual ranking of national European healthcare systems across five areas that are key to the consumer: patients’ rights and information, waiting times for common treatments, care outcomes, the generosity of the system and access to medication.

Included in the patients’ rights and information section were questions relating to e-Health, focusing on how extensively each country uses Electronic Patient Records in primary care.

The report says that EPR use can be considered a litmus test for a countries e-Health readiness. “A full EPR gives the potential to have the “virtual patient” in one spot, so that better care services can be provided at fewer appointments – a win-win situation for everybody involved.”

Just six countries scored well on e-Health – Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK.

By contrast eleven countries scored poorly on e-Health – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Cyprus, Malta and Slovenia were not evaluated for e-Health.

The annual survey by Health Consumer Powerhouse looked at the healthcare situation in all 27 member states plus Switzerland and Norway, providing detailed analysis for each county and suggesting improvements that should be made. The survey has been carried out annually since 2005.

Last year’s winner France, finished in third place thus year, with the Netherlands taking second place.

Switzerland, Germany and Sweden also finished high. The UK was ranked 17 with its healthcare system was described as ‘mediocre’.

However, the UK’s information and advice service for England and Wales, NHS Direct and Ireland’s National Treatment Purchase Fund were praised for their telephone and internet services.

Latvia was voted the country with the worst healthcare system in the EU. Bulgaria and Poland also finished in the bottom three.

Johan Hjertqvist, president of Health Consumer Powerhouse, said: “The new index confirms that European healthcare consists of a top group of roughly half a dozen of very well performing nations, internally competing for excellence. The new 2007 EHCI winner, Austria, runs a healthcare system combining excellent outcomes with consumer orientation. 

“Behind the leaders there are many medium-quality countries with some quick climbers, like Estonia. At the low end of the index there are a group of poor performers. Consumer and patient rights are improving. In a growing number of European countries there are patients’ rights laws and a functional access to your own medical record is becoming standard. “

The index is compiled from a combination of public statistics and independent research.


Health Consumer Powerhouse report