Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

JAMA: Imaging Use Up in HMOs; Industry Leaders Disagree

Published on the June 14, 2012, DiagnosticImaging.com website

By Whitney L.J. Howell

Changes to Medicare reimbursement and other financial incentives designed to control the use of diagnostic imaging services aren’t working as expected, even in clinical settings without a fee-for-service payment model, according to a study published earlier this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association. However, not all industry leaders agree that imaging utilization is on the rise.

A retrospective study of up to 2 million electronic health records from 1996 to 2010 from six health systems with health maintenance organizations (HMOs) revealed the number of diagnostic imaging studies performed increased between nearly 8 percent to 57 percent during that time period.

The findings, compiled by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF), showed the number of ultrasounds doubled, CTs tripled, and MRIs quadrupled during those 15 years. These results indicate that financial disincentives, such as lowered reimbursement or added cost to the patient, aren’t enough to eliminate unnecessary testing, as once was the hope, researchers said.

“Some people are just unrealistically enamored with diagnostic tests. There’s a perception that there’s no harm to these tests, so we can do them and think about the results later,” Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD, UCSF radiology and biomedical imaging professor and lead study author, said in an interview. “The pictures are extraordinary, and some patients receive enormous benefits from having these tests. But others receive no help at all — they face high radiation doses, false positives, and more unnecessary downstream testing.”

Fear of facing malpractice suits and of missing a malignancy also pushes providers to order diagnostic studies for which there is no true medical indication, she said. If these problems were resolved, she said, radiologists and referring physicians could likely avoid 30 percent to 50 percent of diagnostic studies.

Even an industry-wide shift to an accountable care organization (ACO) or bundled payment model is unlikely to be enough to drive down imaging utilization, she said. Instead, medical imaging should invest in comparative effectiveness studies to better understand when imaging is appropriate. Industry leaders can, then, use that information to create clinical guidelines.

However, several groups, including the American College of Radiology (ACR), the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance (MITA), and the Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC) said the study’s findings actually supported existing evidence that imaging use is decreasing.

To read the remainder of the article at its original location: http://www.diagnosticimaging.com/low-dose/content/article/113619/2083399

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June 18, 2012 - Posted by | Healthcare | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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