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As an American health care researcher visiting Denmark over the past two months I have spent the majority of my time trying to answer what seems like a simple question: How does Denmark spend less money than the USA, provide health insurance for everyone, and yet still have better health outcomes than the USA?
What I thought I would find is that Denmark perhaps has a unique set of policies and procedures for arranging doctors and specialists, or perhaps a certain distribution of hospitals and clinics, or that the patients would have a long wait, or a limited choice. In other words, I thought the answer to my question how do they do it? Oh how I was wrong! The healthcare system is not that complex, nor that unique.
Its financing is fairly straightforward. Doctors are not highly paid compared to other occupations requiring similar education. In terms of problems and challenges, from everything I have seen and learned they are very similar to the ones we face in the USA.
For example, patients missing an appointment or not taking their medication are problems that all health care systems face. Conversely, Denmark does not have faster computers or better medical equipment or better doctors. It is something else. Study ranks Nordic health care among best in the world, except Denmark and Greenland.
What I now realise is that it is the entire culture that makes this country able to provide such an effective and efficient health care system. My problem was that connecting all the little dots was not easy at first. Imagine you are trying to put together a puzzle but you do not have a photograph of what you are trying to make. On the other hand, once you know what the finished puzzle should look like you can quickly find the edges of the puzzle and then begin to fill in the middle until voila!