OECD calls for more attention to patient-reported outcomes

12 Nov 2019 | News

The number of knee replacements doubled in 16 years, but did recipients’ lives improve as a result? With health expenditure set to outpace GDP growth, collecting data to answer questions like this is crucial

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is calling on its member countries to pay more attention to patient-reported outcomes and experiences, saying capacity within and among countries must be increased “to collect and report these data in a consistent and harmonised way.”

As things stand, efforts to collect patient outcomes data are, “largely localised and isolated to specific initiatives and clinical champions at specific sites”, according to OECD’s ‘Health at a Glance’ report published last week.

Data on health system processes and activities, on the other hand, are routinely collected and reported. But in isolation, they reveal little about performance, quality and value. For example, the average rate of total knee replacement in OECD countries doubled between 2000 and 2016. But this fact on its own doesn’t reveal whether these operations made a difference to people’s lives.

Asking patients more probing questions about hip and knee replacement procedures and breast cancer treatment, for example, has increased public knowledge and provided patients with greater choice on treatments.

“More patient-reported data will enable solid analysis and inter-country comparisons in the future. It is important that countries harmonise their data collection at national level,” the OECD says.

Results from a limited number of projects demonstrate that presenting comparable results from patient-reported data at international level is “eminently possible”, the report adds.

Health costs growing

The review – carried out every two years – looks at the performance of the wealthiest nations across all continents.

It warns that health expenditure will outpace GDP growth over the next 15 years in almost every OECD country.

Health spending per capita will grow at an average annual rate of 2.7 per cent across the OECD and will reach 10.2 per cent of GDP by 2030, up from 8.8 per cent in 2018.

The US spent the most on health care in 2018, equivalent to 16.9 per cent of GDP, above Switzerland, the next highest spending country, at 12.2 per cent. 

Germany, France, Sweden and Japan all spent close to 11 per cent of GDP, while a few countries spent less than 6 per cent of their GDP on health care, including Mexico, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Turkey at 4.2 per cent.

The report says that increased use of generic drugs, which amount to only half the volume of pharmaceuticals sold across OECD countries, could save costs.

At the same time, shifting more tasks from doctors to nurses and other health professionals can also alleviate cost pressures and improve efficiency, the report says.

Never miss an update from Science|Business:   Newsletter sign-up