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Chronically Ill Inadequately Served by U.S. Healthcare System, Survey Finds

Mar 5, 2003
Anthony J. Brown, MD
Reuters Health
New York

Most physicians, policymakers, and people in the general population believe that the current US healthcare system is not meeting the needs of people with chronic conditions, according to survey results published in the February 24th issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

All three groups "are in agreement that the current system needs to change to be more responsive to people with chronic disease," study author Dr. Gerard F. Anderson, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told Reuters Health.

"Over the years, we've gotten better and better at acute care," Dr. Anderson said. "The upshot is that although people are living longer, they are now living with more chronic diseases."

In the current study, Dr. Anderson analyzed data from 1663 people in the general population, 1238 physicians, and 155 policymakers who were surveyed regarding how well the US healthcare system addresses the needs of patients with chronic conditions.

More than 90% of physicians and general citizens agreed that chronic conditions could affect men and women of any age, ethnicity, or income level. Data were not available for policymakers on this point.

Less than half of the respondents in each group reported that chronically ill patients received adequate medical care, government programs were adequate to meet the needs of such patients, or that health insurance pays for most of the services required. In all three parameters, policymakers had a more pessimistic view of the current system than the other groups.

A majority of subjects in each group reported that it was difficult for chronically ill patients to obtain adequate health insurance, receive care from a medical specialist, to obtain home assistance from family members, to obtain needed prescription medications, and to receive care from a primary care provider or other healthcare providers.

The current findings are encouraging in that they suggest that "policymakers are finally starting to get the message that healthcare for chronic diseases in the US is inadequate," Dr. Anderson said. "Now, the real challenge is to turn that into action."

Dr. Anderson noted that he would like to "conduct a similar survey in a few years to evaluate any changes that may occur."

Arch Intern Med 2003;163:437-442.

© 2003 Reuters Ltd