PARIS - It's radiology's equivalent of the French paradox: France has one of the world's best healthcare systems as measured by patient outcomes, yet it also seems to have one of the most poorly equipped systems in Europe.
"For the number of MRIs per capita, we are actually at the level of Turkey and Portugal," said Jean-Pierre Pruvo, MD, secretary general of the French Society of Radiology at the opening press conference for the annual congress, les Journées Françaises de Radiologie (JFR), under way in Paris October 22-26.
Turning to the leading industrial nations of Europe with whom France is normally ranked, Pruvo acknowledged, "We have three times fewer MRIs than Germany; we have half as many MRIs as countries like Spain and Italy."
"We wrote the Guide to Good Practice for Radiology that has been translated and adopted by radiology societies across Europe," he said, "yet we cannot practice according to our own guidelines in France."
France needs to double the number of both CT scanners and MRI units, he said.
"When you have six MRIs and six scanners in a hospital of 800 active beds, this is insufficient," Pruvo said. "We need only look at Rotterdam that has 12 scanners and 12 MRIs for an equivalent service."
The sorry image of French radiology in the new century was further tarnished during the annual congress as the government reported during the session "France Sans Film" that more than half of the country's radiology centers have no PACS capabilities.
The head of the association for private radiologists challenged this figure, saying that even among the centers that the government says have PACS capability, many have only basic archiving functions, most of which are outdated.
"I want to get this message out," Pruvo told reporters as part of his campaign to shame stakeholders into action while also negotiating with the government on a plan of action. "I met with the minister of health last year in the fullness of an economic crisis, yet we are assured that both the health and education budgets will be spared in the budget negotiations."
At last year's congress, Pruvo sent out an alarm, calling for 250 MRI scanners to be authorized immediately for emergency care where French trauma teams are not able to conform to practice guidelines.
He has since become more politic, even while persevering in his mission, holding to a 10-point plan distributed last year that he said has now been adopted point for point by the ministry.
This year Pruvo is building consensus among all radiologists and their respective societies in private practice, research, and specialty areas around the concept of a shared technical platform for major medical centers.
By ending the turf wars and joining together in a unified call for a planned workflow, Pruvo strengthens his hand for negotiations with the health ministry that holds the purse strings in France's socialist, single-payor system.
"It means putting new MRIs and scanners in the same center as radiography and ultrasound modalities to enable radiologists to have the right equipment, immediately available on a 24-hour basis," he said.
"There are significant savings for preemptive diagnostics over hospitalization," he said. "Let's stop saying that imaging is expensive. When you have a detailed diagnosis and the possibility of treatment right away, it costs less."
By John Brosky
AuntMinnie.com contributing writer
October 26, 2010
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