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Tue 1 May 2007 02:18 PM

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Top expat ops revealed

A new analysis of claims data has unveiled striking differences in the healthcare needs of expatriates around the world.

A new analysis of claims data has unveiled striking differences in the healthcare needs of expatriates around the world.

Research by BUPA International has isolated the most common procedures and their costs, and has revealed that expats in the Middle East undergo more gall bladder removals than those in any other region of the world.

Operations to repair hernias are also common among the regional expat population here, but are rare everywhere else.

Overall, colonoscopies topped the league table of the most common procedures carried out on BUPA members worldwide. Caesarean births ranked a close second, and topped the list of most commonly performed procedures for Middle Eastern patients.

Investigative procedures, such as scans, are the most common operation in Europe. Expats there have more colonoscopies than those in Africa, Asia and the Middle East combined. Gastroscopies are the second most common procedure in Europe; but do not rank at all in the Middle East's ‘top 10". Cataract removal is a worldwide winner, featuring in each region's top listing, with the removal of skin lesions also proving popular across the board.

BUPA's associate medical director Dr Sneh Khemka said: "It's clear that expats around the world have different health needs. The climate, culture and cuisine of the country they live in is likely to affect their health and wellbeing over time."

He attributed regional differences in claim cultures to trends in medical practice, in addition to "local factors such as accessibility to specialist hospitals and treatment centres."

On average, expat policyholders claim twice a year, but there are regional variations; the average for Europe is 1.5 claims a year but four a year in parts of the Middle East.

The high claim rate in Saudi Arabia has been attributed to social and cultural factors.

Insurers suggest that many Saudis regard a visit to the clinic as a rare chance in a closed society to intermingle with the opposite sex.

The region has also been accused of the "over-medicalisation," of health problems, with minor health concerns receiving specialist care. Extra claims may follow some cases, primary care doctors get a commission from the receiving consultant.

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