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Greeks undergo a million and a half CT scan tests per year

16 September 2014 / 17:09:23  GRReporter
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The wasteful spending relating to diagnostic tests in Greece continues unabated despite the economic crisis. There is one CT scan, nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, or triplex ultrasound test per every fourth Greek who has health insurance. The number of tests is continuously increasing and these three tests alone cost the Organisation for the Provision of Health Services 170 million euro a year. Underlying this is "induced demand", accounting for the fact that doctors and diagnostic centres have artificially inflated the need for tests. President of the Organisation Dimitris Kondos states that in the period August 2013 - July 2014 the number of such tests increased considerably. According to him, this inflated number of tests not only causes huge financial problems in the health sector, but is also a serious public health concern.

Recently published data of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development seems to confirm this finding as follows:

Greece is the country with the lowest number of visits of citizens to the GP, namely 4 visits per person per year. Germans visit their GP twice as frequently - 9.7 visits per year, and Spaniards and Italians nearly twice as frequently, 7.4 and 7.2 visits per year respectively.

Despite the smaller number of visits to the GP, however, in Greece, the number of nuclear magnetic resonance imaging tests per capita is almost twice as high as in Germany. In addition, Greece ranks fourth with the highest number of CT scan tests among the 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

I.e. with half as many visits to their GPs, Greeks undergo twice as many CT scan, nuclear magnetic resonance imaging and triplex ultrasound tests. In other words, the Greek doctors prescribe such tests three or four times more often than their European counterparts do.

Indicative is another fact, namely that the number of Pap tests (Pap smears) performed by Greek women who have health insurance each year is significantly lower than that of mammography tests (187,136 compared to 815,349). This means that Greek women undergo mammography tests four times more frequently compared to Pap tests.

Pap test

Professor of cytology Petros Karakitsos stresses that Greece is the first European country where the minimum age permitted to conduct a Pap test is 21 years, whereas the recommended age in the European directives is 25 years.

In 2013, the annual value of Pap tests in the Organisation for the Provision of Health Services amounted to 1,240,000 euro, which is quite a bit higher than the 2012 amount, namely 948,457 euro. The number of conducted tests is also higher (187,136 in 2013 compared to 142,411 in 2012).

An increasing trend was observed in mammography tests as well. In 2012, the Organisation for the Provision of Health Services paid for 673,786 tests (5.4 million euro), the number of which last year increased to 815,349 and they were worth 6.5 million euro.

The situation in testing the prostate specific antigen (PSA) which establishes prostate cancer is similar - 429,584 such tests worth 6,000,000 euro were carried out in 2012 and 617,351 worth 8.6 million euro in 2013.

According to Dimitris Kondos, the goal is not to reduce the number of tests but to enhance prevention. The data show that the number of women and men in Greece who undergo a medical check-up remains small.

Tags: TestsCT scanningNuclear magnetic resonance imagingOrganisation for the Provision of Health Services
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