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Radiology wait times impacting Canadians in more ways than one

Annual price of excessive wait times for radiology services is $3.54 billion—and the situation is not improving.

Ottawa, June 25, 2019—In the newly released The Value of Radiology, Part II report, The Conference Board of Canada calculates that excessive wait times for radiology services (CT and MRI diagnostics) cost the Canadian economy $3.54 billion in lost productivity each year. In addition, the investment needed for modernization of Canada’s medical imaging equipment is $4.4 billion between now and 2040.

“The insights in this report provide important information for policy makers and for Canadians because it evaluates current wait times for radiological procedures as well as the future supply and demand for medical imaging equipment,” said Matthew Stewart, Director, National Forecast, Forecasting and Analysis. “In other words, it provides insight into the future of our health care as our population ages.”

“Access to medical imaging procedures is a growing problem for Canadians. Having to wait months for MRIs and CT’s not only negatively impacts patient outcomes but also costs the healthcare system billions of dollars each year. We need the federal government’s support to rectify this problem and to take a leadership role in improving the lives of patients,” said Dr. Mike Barry, President, Canadian Association of Radiologists.

Major findings from The Value of Radiology, Part II report (June 2019):

  • Approximately 5 per cent of CT and MRI patients, or 380,000 people a year, are forced to exit the workforce temporarily while they wait longer than the recommended maximum wait time.
  • Having workers off the job while waiting for diagnostics hurts the ability of firms to produce goods and services. This, in turn, hurts GDP, reducing government revenues by $430 million a year.
  • The cost of excessive wait times will likely increase. Growth in demand for CT and MRI services is expected to outpace the growth in supply over the long term.
  • Currently, 151 new CT machines and 91 new MRI machines are required to modernize Canada’s stock of medical imaging equipment, at a cost of $469 million.
  • Total investment in acquiring imaging machinery needed to meet demand and in keeping the machines up to date with the latest technology amounts to $4.4 billion over the next two decades.

The research for this report was conducted to calculate the economic costs associated with excessive wait times for CT and MRI diagnostics and to forecast the replacement costs for medical imaging equipment in Canada between now and 2040. This report was commissioned by the Canadian Association of Radiologists. The data and analysis in the report were developed independently by the research authors and do not represent, in any way, the views or opinions of the funders. Also available is The Value of Radiology report, (2017) which presents a framework for better establishing the value of radiology in improving population health and the health care system. 

A copy of The Value of Radiology, Part II is available, for free, in English and French.

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