Systematic review of studies comparing health outcomes in Canada and the United States

 
Share
By

The U.S. health care reform effort has centered on how to increase access and contain costs. What gets less attention is the quality of treatment American’s receive. Is it “the best care in the world” or is there work to be done?

A 2007 McMaster University survey published in Open Medicine, “A Systematic Review of Studies Comparing Health Outcomes in Canada and the United States,” looked at nearly 5,000 studies that compared health outcomes in Canada and the United States.

The studies looked at a variety of problems, including cancer, coronary disease and chronic illnesses, as well as surgical procedures. Overall, the survey determined that:

  • In the 10 best studies, five favored Canada, two favored the United States and three showed equivalent or mixed results.
  • In the remaining studies, nine favored Canada, three favored the United States and 16 showed equivalent or mixed results.

Taken together, the studies indicate that the health outcomes for patients cared for in Canada may be superior to the outcomes for those cared for in the United States. The authors caution against drawing any broad conclusions, however, because the results weren’t consistent across all medical situations. For example, survival rates for breast cancer are superior in the United States, while patients with head and neck cancers appear to do better in Canada.

Furthermore, the authors note that health-care outcomes cannot be isolated from a health-care system’s other characteristics. For example, if a system does a better job identifying and treating illness early, outcomes are likely to be superior. Similarly, ease of access and effective preventive care can also improve health outcomes.

Tags: cancer, medicine, safety, science, metastudy, health care reform

Last updated: May 26, 2009

 

We welcome feedback. Please contact us here.

Citation: Guyatt, Gordon H.; et al. "A systematic review of studies comparing health outcomes in Canada and the United States". Open Medicine, Vol 1, No 1 (2007).