The Countries with the Most MRI Machines

MRI machines are an important diagnostic tool. Access to MRIs can be an important factor in preventing disease, and perhaps an indicator of the country's overall health. Here's a look at the countries with the most MRI machines per capita.

As an organization known for reporting on quality-of-life metrics, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) knows a thing or two about which countries are best at providing the right tools for a happy, healthy population. One of the metrics they follow in the health category is the concentration of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) equipment in member countries. It’s part of the organization’s look at the availability of several different types of healthcare equipment, including hospital beds and mammography equipment.

But what does having a lot of diagnostic equipment mean? Does it increase spending for healthcare? Does it increase the quality of life? In addition to looking at the number of MRI machines per 1 million inhabitants, according to 2012 numbers provided by the OECD, we’ve also provided the percentage of GDP spent on healthcare and where each country ranks in the OECD Better Life Index.

The index looks at the 34 member nations and several “key partner” countries, comparing multiple factors of quality of life.

While causation and correlation are not definitively drawn by the report, we do think it’s an interesting way to look at the different ways developed nations provide healthcare.

— 8.8 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 10.9%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 6

Canada generally does quite well in all of the Better Life Index categories, but healthcare is a particular strength for our neighbors to the north. With healthcare prioritized in the index, Canada jumps from a ranking of sixth to fourth. In addition to the 8.8 MRI machines per million citizens, Canada also has 14.6 CT scanners per million citizens, ranking it 17th on that list.

— 9.8 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 5.9%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 29

Estonia has been hailed by the World Health Organization for creating a system of good health outcomes with lower-than-average spending; the average healthcare spending for an EU nation is 9.6% of GDP. Interestingly, it is Estonia’s income level that reduces the overall Better Life Index score for the country.

— 9.9 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 5.4%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 35

Turkey’s healthcare system has undergone many fundamental changes in the last 10 to 15 years—changes that some say influenced President Obama’s Affordable Care Act legislation. And as more public and private funding has been put towards healthcare, the availability and access to diagnostic equipment has increased. In fact, as the Bahraini government has looked to modernize its healthcare system, it has looked to both Estonia and Turkey as model systems.

—11.1 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 10%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 8

While the Kiwis have a high concentration of MRI equipment on the island, not all of it is very accessible. Residents of the Marlboro area haven’t had an MRI machine at their hospital for 15 years; referrals for the machine at Nelson, 2 hours away, have created a 9 month waiting list. Beginning this week, the Wairau Hospital in Blenheim will start seeing local private and public patients for MRIs.

— 11.8 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 12.1%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 11

According to The Commonwealth Fund, Holland’s MRI equipment is utilized less than in other comparable nations, with roughly 50 MRI exams per 1,000 citizens; Germany, on the other hand, reports 95 exams per 1,000 people. That number may increase, though, as Dutch researchers launch new MRI-based programs to assist in prostate cancer diagnosis.

— 12.4 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 8.9%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 12

Despite having a higher concentration of MRI machines than many other developed nations, Ireland’s public health system has been under serious scrutiny because of enormous waiting lists for the diagnostic tool and other outpatient services. Earlier this year, at the nation’s largest children’s hospital, it was reported that some patients waited up to 27 months for an MRI.

— 13.2 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 7.1%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 15

Very small and very wealthy, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg has the second-smallest population among the top 10 countries, behind Iceland. Considering there are fewer than 600,000 inhabitants of Luxembourg, the concentration of MRI machines is a little misleading. But Luxembourg does rank highly in other utilization categories, with an average hospital stay length of more than 7 days in acute care.

— 14.8 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 9.3%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 19

Spain is changing the way MRI equipment is being used inside the machine and away from the whirring magnets. Spanish doctors, in conjunction with Johns Hopkins University, have developed a secure app for healthcare professionals to share medical photos, including MRIs. The app is intended to share professional experience while protecting patient privacy. Researchers in Spain are also using the imaging tools to measure brain activity in wine drinkers as they drink varieties with different alcohol contents.

— 15 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 9.1%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 1

The exact opposite of Ireland, Australia’s waiting list for MRI access is between 2 to 3 weeks, depending on which county a person lives in. In turn, Australia’s cancer survival rates are higher than several Western European countries rates. In a recent international study, this was attributed to the willingness for a general practitioner to refer patients for diagnostics early as well as quick diagnostic-tool access.

— 19.1 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 11.1%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 17

Austria leads the way in MRI utilization among OECD nations, with roughly 100 exams per 1,000 people. Researchers at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Health Technology Assessment in Vienna spent several months identifying potential disconnects between referring physicians and government usage outlines. Recommendations include getting Radiologists more involved before imaging equipment is used and increased education on proper and improper utilizations.

— 21.6 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 9.1%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 10

While Norway, Denmark, and Sweden do not appear on this list, Finland bucks the trend of its neighbors. Interestingly, the Finns tend to self-report a below-average sense of health, with only 65% of people saying they were in good or very good health (OECD average is 68%). This puts Finland at number 27 out of the 36 OECD nations, much lower than the country’s rankings in most other categories.

— 21.8 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 9%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 9

While a high percentage of Iceland’s population has its genome sequence mapped, until individualized medicine becomes more readily available a high concentration of MRI equipment will be one of the main diagnostic tools. After the 2008 financial crisis, the Icelandic healthcare system suffered deep budget cuts. Within the last year, though, plans have been announced to try to bring the country’s medical equipment purchasing back to pre-austerity levels. Iceland’s ranking on this list may change drastically, especially for such a small country.

— 23.5 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 7.6%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 27

South Korea’s healthcare economy has been booming, and not just because of domestic utilization. Medical tourism from places like China and as far away as Uganda is a growing economic priority for the country. In addition to traditional medical partnerships with other nations, South Korea’s destigmatized and economical take on cosmetic surgery is bringing in medical tourists by the thousands. With a focus on medical tourism and technology, perhaps it’s not surprising the country has such a high concentration on imaging equipment.

— 24.6 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 9.2%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 23

Italy is a prime example of “more isn’t always better.” While the country ranks second highest in concentration of MRI equipment, and spends nearly 10% of GDP on healthcare, there is an inequality in healthcare access and funding across regions of the country. According to a 2013 report by The Commonwealth Fund, Southern Italy has less access to hospital beds and advanced diagnostic equipment.

— 34.5 MRI machines per 1 million citizens

Healthcare Spending as % of GDP: 16.9%

Ranking on Better Life Index: 7

It’s not really surprising that the US leads the list in both concentration of MRI machines as well as spending; in part, the Affordable Care Act was created to curb the amount of spending, waste, and the less-than-stellar health outcomes in our system. And while the US has the second-highest rate of CT exam utilization, other utilization factors like number of days in acute care and hospital beds-per-capita are below average.