- Americans pay much for healthcare but get much less in terms of quality and efficiency than Western European nations.
- The training and quality of medical staff is similar in the U.S. and Europe, but for the same experience healthcare providers earn much more in the U.S. than in Europe.
- European patients can access high-quality hospitals with well-trained medical staff, using the same technologies, pharmaceuticals, and devices, for half the price they would pay in the U.S.
- European health systems adopt technologies from the U.S. more quickly than vice versa, due in part to more rapid regulatory approval.
- For the 20 biggest selling pharmaceutical products, prices in the U.S. are much higher than in Europe.
This article was written in partnership with Indigomed. According to its website, Indigomed is an online platform designed to offer Americans and other international patients access to European healthcare services. Indigomed works with insurance providers, healthcare institutions, physicians, and others involved in patient care, to ensure that patients from around the world can travel to Europe, afford lodging, and have access to high-quality medical care at a price that many families can afford.
If you are caring for a patient who simply cannot afford optimal care for a health condition in the U.S., consider suggesting that the patient investigate Indigomed. Indigomed works to make European healthcare affordable to middle-class U.S. patients. It could be a lifeline for the patient who has a treatable disease but has exhausted his or her resources for care in the U.S.
According to Indigomed founder and CEO, Massimo Di Cicilia, "Indigomed is not a high-net wealth individual platform, but a lower-middle class one. U.S. executives working for big and financially healthy corporation are well covered and can afford to enter best-in-class U.S. hospitals such as John Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic, and Mayo Clinic. These patients don’t need to travel to get good, or excellent health care."
On the other hand, Mr. Di Cicilia explains, for middle class people who work for smaller companies, have children and live in areas that are under served by high-quality healthcare in the U.S. good care may be out of reach for a number of reasons.
"According to the information we have, the situation [in the U.S.] is not funny at all," Mr. Di Cicilia remarked. In some cases, "people have to move to get acceptable healthcare, and if they want good standards, they have to migrate to the coasts. The prices in those few hospitals are very high.
Indigomed offers services to those people. We are contacting insurers and self-insured companies in 10 states in the U.S. to make our service available through and finance by those institutions. And when I say fully financed, I mean also travel and housing," he explained.
Massimo Di Cicilia, the Founder and CEO of Indigomed, told MDalert.com “that a national system which negotiates with medical providers—including both independent providers such as medical specialists or institutions such as hospitals or pharmaceutical companies—can provide price and quality advantages for nearly identical healthcare services or products.”
Indigomed identifies a number of reasons for the price disparity and the similar quality of healthcare services provided in European countries versus the U.S. They include the fact that European healthcare systems adopt technologies from the U.S. more quickly than the U.S adopts effective drugs, devices, and procedures developed in Europe. Effective treatments can be bogged down in regulatory approval processes in the U.S. while approval can be more rapid in European countries. Also new drug prices can be much higher in the U.S. versus European markets for the same or similar drugs. For instance, “For the 20 biggest selling pharmaceutical products, prices in the U.S. are much higher than in Europe,” Mr. Di Cicilia told MDalert.com.
Further, according to 2015 data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “the average person living in the United States spent U.S.$1,074 on out-of-pocket healthcare costs (including physician visits, prescription drugs and health insurance deductibles) in 2013. In France and the Netherlands, residents spent less than 25% (U.S.$277 and $270 respectively) of this amount. Meanwhile, U.S. residents spent US$3,442 per head on other private health expenditure, including their health insurance premiums.”
A number of factors may account for the differing costs of healthcare for patients in the U.S. versus Western Europe. In any developed country, healthcare costs are essentially related to four main factors:
- The cost of medical staff including physicians, surgeons, radiologists, nurses, and other healthcare professionals.
- The costs of real estate.
- The cost of researching, developing, and purchasing medical technology including robots, radiologic equipment, new drugs and genetic therapies.
- The price of pharmaceuticals.
- Insurance costs.
- The for-profit and not-for-profit status of healthcare institutions.
- The composite healthcare market.
Indigomed was conceived essentially as a mechanism to give U.S. patients cost-effective access to European healthcare systems. According to the Indigomed website the service provides:
- On average, a 35% to 50% reduction in medical expenses for comparable European healthcare services in comparison with those offered in the U.S.
- Access to a broad range of European healthcare providers.
- “Best practice” analysis and “permanent medical security control,” according to an Indigomed press release.
- HIPAA (U.S.) and ASIP (Europe)–compliance.
- Patient-specific services to help assure medical quality, case management, and privacy.
Given that the median income for a family of 4 in the U.S. in 2014 was about $53,657, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the types of services offered by an organization such as Indigomed will not be available to the majority of Americans. However, for those who can afford to travel and lodge internationally, this may be a cost-saving alternative for those in higher income brackets.
Until the median income in the U.S. begins to rise significantly, the dream of European healthcare will remain a dream for most. However, only when the cost of healthcare in the U.S. begins to decline significantly, services such as those offered by Indigomed will remain very attractive for those with the income to take advantage of them.