Monday, September 21, 2009

Facts About Japanese Health Care, and "The Healing of America"

Tyler Cowen:

The Japanese are the world's most prodigious consumers of health care. The average Japanese visits a doctor about 14.5 times per year -- three times as often as the U.S. average, and twice as often as any nation in Europe...The Japanese love medical technology; they get twice as many CAT scans per capita as Americans do and three times as many MRI scans. Japan has twice as many hospital beds per capita as the United States, and people use them. The average hospital stay in Japan is thirty-six nights, compared to six nights in the United States...Japan lags, though, in terms of invasive surgery; Japanese patients are much less apt than Americans to have operations such as arthroplasty, transplant, or heart bypass. This is partly economics -- since the fees for surgery are low, doctors don't recommend it as often -- and partly cultural. As a rule, Japanese doctors and patients prefer drugs to cutting the body. On a per-capita basis, the Japanese take about twice as many prescription drugs as Americans do.

Japan, by the way, has invented a smaller and more basic MRI machine, which costs about one-tenth of the cost of the machines used in the United States.

That is all from T.R. Reid's The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. I thought this book was very readable, very interesting, and has very good information about different health care systems around the world. The author is extremely critical of the U.S. system; the premise of his book is that he takes his shoulder injury to doctors in many different countries. Since not much can be done for the shoulder, the expensive and complicated U.S. system doesn't come off looking very good. Not everyone will agree with the author's perspective but overall I recommend this book.

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