Healthcare services in Sweden, Italy and Norway are of a high quality, according to the findings of a project that followed individual patients, but it also found that quality and costs varied widely within and between these countries.

The results from the EuroHOPE project that compare health care for five different medical conditions were presented at a conference on 8 Aprilthat explained differences in European health care outcomes performance and efficiency.

This EU project that has run for three years compares the quality and cost of hospital care in Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Sweden and certain provinces in Italy. Researchers have focused on care for heart attacks, strokes, hip fractures, very premature infants and certain forms of breast cancer.

“The results show that there is potential to improve the efficiency of health care. We see significant differences in both costs and quality both within and between countries for these diseases. However, there are no clear results that show that the best quality is associated with the highest costs,” says Prof Clas Rehnberg, Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institute.

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The method used in this project was compared with other forms of rankings of health care systems. There were also discussions about the causes of the differences in quality.

“We see no clear differences between how healthcare is financed in different countries. But it could, for example, be that different medical techniques are employed in different countries. Another hypothesis is that it is due to the centralisation or decentralisation of healthcare or that international healthcare guidelines are not followed,” says Rehnberg.