Satisfaction with Belgian health care system is high, but cost of healthcare is a concern

Deloitte publishes healthcare consumer survey results
27 October 2011

Brussels, 27 October 2011 – More than half of Belgian healthcare consumers are happy with the performance of the Belgian healthcare system. However, the cost of healthcare is a concern for Belgian consumers: from all respondents who did not see a doctor when they were sick or injured, 39% chose to do this due to the cost of treatment. 42% of all consumers who needed a prescription report switching to generic medication equivalents to save money, and 63% of the respondents claim to be limited in their ability to spend money on essential household items due to monthly healthcare expenses. Belgians continue to have a very traditional, high quality mentality of care, with many doctor and hospital visits. The awareness of the Belgians towards E-health, however, remains very low and there will be an important role to play to promote the e-health potential in Belgium. These are some of the most important conclusions of the Deloitte Survey for Healthcare Consumers in Belgium.

Conducted annually in the United States since 2008, the Deloitte Survey of Healthcare Consumers seeks to provide a comprehensive view of health care consumerism. For the first time ever, an analysis of the Belgian healthcare system was included in the survey. Alongside Belgium, Deloitte surveyed healthcare consumers in 11 other countries.
An overview of the most important Belgian results:

Satisfaction with the Belgian healthcare system is high

Belgian healthcare consumers are happy with the performance of the healthcare system, with 57% rating the performance as good. 4 in 10 consumers are satisfied with the performance of the system and believe that the system is better than others (42%), has better quality of care (44%) and is technologically more advanced than other comparable health care systems (44%). Consumers are satisfied with their physician's performance (75%) and with hospital care most recently received (7 in 10 are satisfied). Consumers are also highly satisfied with their insurance cover with 94% believing they are either well-insured or adequately insured.

Hans Debruyne, Healthcare Partner at Deloitte Belgium, concludes: "Overall, Belgians are happy with their healthcare system, and there is no feeling that the system needs to change in any significant manner such as introducing further privatization. System improvements can be achieved by reducing waiting times and through incorporating a wellness focus and patient-centered orientation into care".

Cost of care is a concern for Belgian consumers: the economic downturn has forced a change in health care spending

Belgian consumers hold mixed views about the performance of their health system: 6 in 10 believe that the system performs well, but others believe that the system is wasteful and performance is not optimal. 62% say the recent economic downturn affected their healthcare spending decisions. Other striking facts and figures include:

Belgian consumers are actively engaged in managing their health

Belgians are engaged in, and actively interact with, their healthcare system: compared to other similar developed countries, Belgium is showing one of the highest percentages of visits to doctors and medical professions as well as of visits to hospitals and overnight stays. However, the survey also points out that less than half of all consumers report being in good health, and half claim to have at least one chronic condition.

In the past year, 57% of the survey participants say they visited doctors for routine check-ups, 43% had imagining exams or tests (e.g., MRI, CAT scan, x-ray, mammogram) which is more than the percentage in neighboring countries. 1 in 5 respondents had influenza vaccinations and 12% had undertaken a wellness program offered by employers, health plans, hospitals, and other types of organizations to help one improve aspects of their health (e.g., lose weight, exercise more, and stop smoking), in the last 12 months . 1 in 5 consumers use alternative therapies in addition to, or as a substitute for traditional therapies.

Hans Debruyne; "Belgian consumers are also in the top ranking of use of prescription medications when compared with other countries surveyed. More than half of consumers take prescription medications – 36% take one, 21% take two, and 39% take three or more. Women (40%) are more likely to take one prescription medication than men (30%), and men (45%) are more likely to take three or more prescription medications than are women (35%).76% of all respondents are confident in the effectiveness of their medications".

Belgian consumers prefer to use traditional resources in healthcare and are not aware of e-health in Belgium

The traditional preferences of the Belgian healthcare consumers are also reflected in the usage of social media for health care purposes: 7% of those interviewed are making use of it. This is much lower than in several other countries. The percentage interested in a medical device that would transmit clinical information to doctor via internet or cell phone shows the lowest rating of all countries surveyed.

Hans Debruyne adds; "Belgians continue to have a very traditional, high quality mentality of care, with many doctor and hospital visits. We will be faced with higher demands on the one hand and budgets reductions on the other hand - due to government budget reductions. I believe that e-health could be of great help to reduce spending in health care, with equal or even higher quality. But the survey shows that the Belgians – compared to other countries - are not very open towards different aspects of e-health and the awareness of e-health in Belgium is low: 89% say they are unaware. So there is an important role to play to promote the e-health potential in our country".

8 in 10 consumers have supplemental health insurance

81% of survey participants are covered by supplemental health insurance, and 69% have one or more types of additional insurance. Almost half (48%) of the survey respondents purchase supplemental insurance from insurance companies/health plans (directly or via insurance agents), 1 out of 3 obtain it through their employer, and 11% obtain it through their spouse/partner's employer.

With regards to privatisation, views are mixed. 42% of the respondents are in favour of maintaining the current public-private mix rather than further privatization of the system (which is intended to improve access and outcomes, increase innovation, and decrease waiting times).