This study is designed to inform health analysts and assist policy experts to understand and enhance the health system in Lithuania and beyond. An analysis of Lithuania’s health system is based on statistics and surveys that are comparable to other countries in Europe and it reveals the potential of the health system to increase the number of saved lives in Lithuania.
Part 1 of the study reminds the reader of demographic trends, key health indicators, several social, economic and behavioural factors that help address strengths and weaknesses of the current health system. One notable trend is that of life expectancy at birth (hereinafter – life expectancy, LE) of Lithuanian population which started departing from the rest of Europe and performed relatively worse since the 1970’s. This was especially true in the rural, middle aged men population. Circulatory and digestive systems diseases and external causes of death may explain Lithuania’s poor health performance as compared to Europe. To a large extent these can be related to social, economic and behaviour factors. Fortunately, substantial improvements were achieved in infant mortality, health of population as measured by indicator of healthy life years (HLY) and self-assessment of health improved since 2005 and came closer to European average.
Part 2 looks at Lithuania’s health care system specifically. It is found that health system is quite proficient in the number of professionals working in the sector, although a shortage of nurses and the concentration of physicians within in larger cities are observed. Likely there is an excess of hospital beds and discharges due to certain diseases which are possible signs of inefficiency. According to Eurostat data Lithuanians indicated that they were able to access health care services even though the waiting time should be reduced. The health system in Lithuania is seen as trusted when compared to many other institutions and the level of trust is quite stable in the longer period, however the level of corruption and bribery should be diminished. Health consumer index in Lithuania has also improved on patient’s rights, survival of new-borns and vaccination but some health care outcomes and access to some innovative pharmaceuticals is relatively low. Importantly, health expenditures in Lithuania are relatively lower than what the level of income (GDP) would allow. This holds true for both total and public health expenditures. In particular prevention and public health and investments receive less funding than in many EU states.
Part 3 focuses on prognosis and recommendations for the health system in Lithuania, particularly on foreseen health outcomes, contribution of health to the economy and expenditures of the health system. If the mortality rates of EU average are reached in Lithuania more than 25 thousand Lithuanian residents would be saved until year 2020. The greatest number of working population’s lives could be saved due to a reduction in mortality of external causes of death and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, a stable and well-functioning health system is able to enhance the performance of the rest of the population thereby generating up to 10 billion Litas (3.2 billion Euro). Because real GDP in Lithuania is growing, whether the trends of public health care spending in Lithuania will return to European trends and in 2020 public health expenditure will reach between 6.2 and 6.4 per cent of GDP depends increasingly on political will and on whether it could be shown that the extra funds will be used not only to enhance health care system performance, but to improve health outcomes as well – save more lives and reduce number of those who are sick.