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Internet used as secondary source of diagnoses by 71% of UK population

A unique, 28 country, public opinion survey illustrates deep unhappiness with healthcare systems and their management, despite broad satisfaction with personal health, and a particular regard for the performance of the family GP.

In a survey of 22,000 people across 28 countries, the partners in the global market research network, IRIS (International Research Institutes), represented in the UK by SPA Future Thinking, have uncovered deep dissatisfaction with the majority of local healthcare systems. However this is balanced by high regard for their most recent visit to a GP (or physician) in the public healthcare system. The system may be badly managed but the Healthcare Professionals within it are very well regarded.  Indeed the study also illustrated that perceptions of personal health are broadly very high, but with a much more muted assessment of own health in Eastern Europe, China and Chile.

A highlight of the study is the depth of information elicited on how medical decisions are arrived at and who or what is consulted on these.  Amongst these the internet is used for medical information by 51% worldwide, but with very wide variation by country. Equally there is a significant focus on the types of medical professionals seen and how this differs by country.

Richard Hepburn, Managing Director at SPA Future Thinking, and the UK’s IRIS Partner said, “This important multi-country study illustrates that within the UK there is a large degree of unhappiness within management of the healthcare system, despite broad satisfaction with personal health, and a particular regard for the performance of our GPs.” Richard adds, “It also highlights a high incidence of those who have been affected by mental illness within the UK and the broad perception amongst the population that this issue is increasingly widespread.”

Key Findings and UK highlights

  1. Throughout Europe and in America the general view of the standard of the local systemis very poor, whereas in Asia the public indicates much greater satisfaction overall. The variance in the standard of system, or more correctly, satisfaction with what is available, is vast, ranging from 81% satisfied in Indonesia to just 6% in Romania.
    The level satisfied with the system in the UK is 42%, joint third highest in Europe behind Turkey and Finland, alongside the Netherlands.
  2. In 22 of the 28 countries under review public satisfaction with their local system is low or very low. Most tend to blame this on poor management rather than underfunding.
    In the UK 57% blame inefficiencies in management for the poor performance of the system, as opposed to underfunding, cited by 37%.
  3. In 21 of the 28 countries studied there is a strong preference for central funding of healthcare as opposed to private individuals funding their own healthcare expenses.  America and Germany are quite different with an almost even preference, half favouring central funding and the balance funding by private individuals.
    Globally the UK has one of the highest percentages of those in favour of state funding at 82%. Globally it does have the lowest percentage of those in favour of a private healthcare system at just 9%.
  4. A really significant finding from the study is the broad extent of satisfaction with the Family Physician or General Practitioner. The majority highly rate their most recent experience of a Family Physician/GP, but with distinctly low scores emerging in Colombia, Chile, Russia and Ukraine, in sharp contrast to most other countries views. It is striking that many worldwide are highly negative about their health systems, yet simultaneously praising of the individuals working within them, apart fromtheir management.
    UK residents give their physician/GP a relatively strong positive endorsement globally with 89% satisfied including 46% ‘very satisfied’.
  5. Many worldwide now want to collaborate in treatment decisionsthat affect themselves, rather than pursuing without question the decisions dictated by their doctors. The doctor may still be highly respected but many (the majority in 18 out of 28 countries) expect to have input into decisions about their own treatment nowadays.
    The UK rank eighth highest in this ‘assertiveness’ league with 61% aiming to shape their own treatment decisions, versus 28% primarily looking to the doctor for guidance and decisiveness.
  6. Physicians, family and friends and pharmacists are important primary sources of healthcare information, but the internet is a key secondary course for 51% of people worldwide. However there is significant variation in net usage in this regard worldwide.
    A considerable 71% turn to the internet in the UK ranking alongside Germany but behind Slovenia and Poland where 87% and 83% respectively use the internet.
  7. The study also examined use of different types of medical practitioner, illustrating the sharp underlying structural differences in various health systems worldwide.
    For example in the UK the levels of usage of GPs (‘family physicians in the public system’) runs ahead of the global average at 68%, versus 59% worldwide. Specialist Physicians in the Public or Private Systems are used by 33% and 9% respectively, considerably less than the worldwide averages (43% and 24%).
  8. In 20 of the 28 countries under investigation, more than a fifth of the adult population has ‘some experience of’ mental illness and/or suicide, either by virtue of direct, personal experience or through the experience of someone close. There is a broad perception that mental illness is widespread in almost all countries under review.  6 in 10, or more, respondents in all but five countries regard mental illness as widespread these days.
    67% perceive mental illnesses are widespread in the UK whilst 43% have been affected by mental illnesses either by personal experience or the experience of someone close. This incidence of 43% is just below Finland who has the highest rate in Europe, both considerably more than the Netherlands at 13%.
  9. Otherwise the study looks at the incidences of significant illnesses and illustrates sharp differences by country. 12% or more have high cholesterol in Canada, America, Finland, Netherlands and Thailand. The far lower levels in other countries may suggest differing levels of awareness and diagnosis, rather than lower incidences perhaps.

For more information please contact John Whittaker, SPA Future Thinking: 01865 336 400, john.whittaker@spawww.futurethinking.fr

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