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Self-referral leads to more negative exams for patients
Date:11/29/2011

CHICAGO Physicians who have a financial interest in imaging equipment are more likely to refer their patients for potentially unnecessary imaging exams, according to a study presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"Self-referral," whereby a non-radiologist physician orders imaging exams and directs patients to imaging services in which that physician has a financial interest, is a concerning trend in medicine and a significant driver of healthcare costs. "Self-referred medical imaging has been shown to be an important contributor to escalating medical costs," said Ben E. Paxton, M.D., radiology resident at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

"Attempts to date at reducing healthcare spending on medical imaging have come in the form of across-the-board cuts that threaten to reduce access to vital imaging services," said the paper's senior author, Ramsey Kilani, M.D., associate faculty member at Duke. "We believe patients would be better served if we instead eliminated underlying drivers of unnecessary imaging spending."

Between 2000 and 2005, ownership or leasing of MRI equipment by non-radiologists grew by 254 percent, compared to 83 percent among radiologists. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the proportion of non-radiologists billing for in-office imaging more than doubled from 2000 to 2006. During that same time period, private office imaging utilization rates by non-radiologists who control patient referral grew by 71 percent.

For the study, the researchers set out to determine if utilization of lumbar spine MRI differs, depending on the financial interest of the physician ordering the exam. They reviewed 500 consecutive diagnostic lumbar spine MRI exams ordered by two orthopedic physician groups serving the same community. The first group had financial interest in the MRI equipment used (FI group), and the second had no financi
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Contact: Linda Brooks
lbrooks@rsna.org
630-590-7762
Radiological Society of North America
Source:Eurekalert

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