SA lags on healthcare system efficiency – index

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South Africa was ranked last among 19 nations in a global survey that measured healthcare system efficiency – the ability to deliver maximum results at the lowest possible cost.

Fin24 reports that the Future Health Index, commissioned by Dutch tech company Philips, gives a snapshot of current realities, and how well a country’s healthcare system is set up for the future. The study asked 33,000 ordinary people as well as healthcare professionals how they viewed health care in their country. The authors then compiled data of the actual reality that citizens had to contend with, using input from leading academic and global non-profit organisations.

The report says the index showed that South Africa’s efficiency ratio was the lowest out of the 19 countries in the study, which included countries such as France, the US, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, China and Brazil. South Africa scored 4.4 compared to the group average of 10.5.

But despite the health index’s worrying findings, South Africans perceived health care much more positively than what actually happened on the ground. South Africans felt that they have more access and greater integration of the healthcare system and better adoption of connected care technology, than they have in reality, researchers said. “Where there are distinct gaps between reality and perception, it is harder to design a clear plan for future development, as both the reality and perception need to be addressed in order to advance,” researchers warned.

Also, the report says, most South African also believed that that were in better health than they actually were. The majority (80%) of the respondents rated their current health positively, with either a good, very good or excellent score. At the same time just one third (33%) of healthcare professionals agree that the overall health of the population in South Africa was positive.

“With these findings as a guiding light, we are engaging all relevant parties around the table to drive the debate,” said Jasper Westerink, CEO of Philips Africa. “The index uncovered a number of significant areas where our healthcare system must transform if we are going to succeed in delivering long-term value-based care.”

Authors of the report attributed South Africa’s poor efficiency score to average healthcare spend as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) that delivered below average health outcomes. The report says South Africa spends 8.8% of its GDP on healthcare, just over R4trn, which placed it in the mid-section of the 19 countries. The US spent 19.1% of their GDP on health and France 11.5%. The lowest spender was the UAE with 3.8%.

Westerink said in a country such as South Africa with a wide variety of healthy care – public or private – to bring it into one efficient chain is a huge challenge.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is quoted in the report as saying recently that the private sector spent 4.4% of GDP on health but only provides care to 16% of the population, while the public sector spent 4.1% of GDP on health but had to provide care to 84% of the population.

A South African pulmonologist working in the public sector, told researchers that as far as availability is concerned he believed that South Africa possessed excellent healthcare facilities. “However, if you look at the government sector, in most of the urban centres resources are very stretched and because of this the quality of care at primary levels is not as good.”

The index showed that 56% of South Africa’s health care professionals believed that their time should be spent on prevention, while 52% that treating the ill was critical. The large gap between the perception of the healthcare system and its realities, indicate ample room for growth.

Nearly half (46%) of the respondents think the health system in the country is un-integrated, while healthcare professionals feel even more strongly about this (74%), an increase from 2016 (58%).

“The general population often have a perception that healthcare is integrated and people only find that the integration is not there once they are a patient in the system,” said Westerink in the report.

Fin24 report
The Future Health Index report

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