Objectives: This study describes the diffusion of advanced diagnostic devices in India and assess implications for efficiency in resource use and equity.
Methods: Commodity-level import statistics, household survey data, and interviews with medical device sellers are used to assess the spread of diagnostic devices. Published qualitative evidence, case studies of diagnostic service providers, and cross-country analyses are used to identify the reasons underlying the spread of medical devices in India. Case studies of public and private providers and data from 150 hospitals in one Indian state are used to assess efficiency in resource use and the distributive impacts of diagnostic devices.
Results: High-end medical device inflows rose during the 1990s, with both supply- and demand-side factors influencing this trend. Although our results suggest that the overall quantity of advanced diagnostics in India is not excessive, there is some evidence of inefficiency in public facilities and possibly unethical practices in private diagnostic facilities. The unequal geographical distribution of magnetic resonance imaging facilities, coupled with inefficient use of medical devices in public facilities suggests inequality in access.
Conclusions: The study points to major regulatory gaps and health system inefficiencies and suggests ways in which these gaps can be addressed.