The Netherlands has the best healthcare system in Europe, according to the annual Euro Health Consumer Index.

The index compares 33 national healthcare systems across 38 indicators. It is published by Health Consumer Powerhouse in co-operation with the European Commission DG Information Society and Media.

The Netherlands has come out in first place two years running, after performing strongly in all categories of the survey.

These include patients’ rights and information, e-health, waiting times for treatment, treatment outcomes, range and reach of services provided, and access to medication.

Countries are ranked using a combination of public statistics, patient polls and independent research.

Denmark came second, performing strongly in providing patients with access to information and enforcing patient rights. Sweden was ranked third because of its good health outcomes, although it lost points for weak investment in e-health.

The UK came 14th, but the Department of Health dismissed the survey, which is seen in the UK as favouring insurance-based systems with lower levels of central government direction.

Arne Bjornberg, research director at Health Consumer Powerhouse, said: “The top end of the scoreboard is dominated by countries where financing the hospitals and the operation of hospitals are separated.

“In the Netherlands’ system, decision-making power is taken from amateurs and given to professionals who work with patients.”

However, Bjornberg said Europe’s performance in e-health is “disappointing”, with only seven countries scoring well in the category.

He added that the health industry is a long way behind other sectors in using technology to generate efficiencies.

Bjornberg highlighted the importance of patient choice to improve outcomes. In some countries, this has been facilitated by online comparison sites for health services.

However, Bjornberg said just three countries- Germany, Denmark and the UK – have really tackled this agenda, and more need to do so.

He said: “It is particularly important to have access to data showing which hospitals are best for particular operations. For example, once Croatia joins the EU it could become a destination for health tourism because it’s relatively inexpensive and has a record of good results.”

Link: Health Consumer Powerhouse