Medical devices and healthcare costs in Canada and 65 other countries, 2006 to 2011: 15 Page Study Released
May 10, 2013

++ Action Item: Contact CATA CEO, John Reid at  for a copy of this 15 Page Study



The cost and use of medical technologies is often blamed for fast rates of growth in 
healthcare spending. Significant public resources are spent by governments to 
assess the cost-effectiveness of things like medical devices and pharmaceuticals. 
Policy makers devote much less effort to assessing the cost-effectiveness of other 
components of healthcare spending. What is the actual impact of medical 
technology spending on the cost of healthcare in the context of total health 
spending? How affordable is medical technology spending in Canada relative to 
other countries? Is the singular focus and significant public investment of scarce 
resources devoted to containing the costs of medical technology in Canada justified
by the facts? This study examines the evidence regardingmedical devices.

To examine the particular impact of medical device expenditures on total 
healthcare costs in Canada versus other countries; and to compare the affordability 
of medical device expenditures relative to per capita GDP in Canada versus other 

Data and Method

Data on medical device expenditures (excluding pharmaceuticals), total health 
spending, and GDP were obtained from World Medical Markets Fact Book 2012 
published by Espicomcovering 66 countries over the period 2006 to 2011.


On average from 2006 to 2011, of 66 countries for which data were available, 
Canada ranked 9th for total health spending per capita, but only 14th for medical 
device spending per capita and 56th when measuring medical device spending as a 
percentage of total health spending. Medical device spending in Canada declined 
from 3.49% of total health spending in 2006 to 3.23% in 2011 averaging 3.41% over 
the period. Canada ranked as low as 34th for medical device spending as a 
percentage of GDP per capita. Medical device spending per capita accounted for 
only 0.36% of GDP per capita in Canada on average over 2006-2011.


Between 2006 and 2011 spending on medical devices had a very small impact on 
overall healthcare costs in Canada relative to almost all of the 66 countries studied 
and was more affordable relative to GDP in Canada than in almost all of the OECD 
countries studied. Given the tiny proportional impact of medical device spending, 
cost containment efforts targeting medical devices in Canada are not likely to 
produce large overall savings on total healthcare costs. The resources and political 
effort invested in containing the costs of medical technology would likely produce a 
bigger total cost-savings return if redirected toward containing the components of 
the healthcare system that account for the largest shares of total expenditure

Brett J Skinner, Ph.D.
Canadian Health Policy 
Institute (CHPI)

May 9, 2013