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Study Finds Rise in Rate of Diagnostic Imaging in Managed Care
Date:11/10/2008

Use of radiology imaging tests has soared in the past decade with a significant increase in newer technologies, according to a new study that is the first to track imaging patterns in a managed care setting over a substantial time period.

(Vocus) November 10, 2008 -- Use of radiology imaging tests has soared in the past decade with a significant increase in newer technologies, according to a new study that is the first to track imaging patterns in a managed care setting over a substantial time period.

Study results are reported in the November/December 2008 issue of the journal "Health Affairs," which focuses on the pros and cons of the medical technology boom, the biggest driver of increasing healthcare costs.

A team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle conducted the study using data from 377,000 patients enrolled in the Group Health Cooperative in Washington state between 1997 and 2006. The study population underwent five million radiology tests during this 10-year period.

Analysis showed an increase in all type of imaging technologies, with the majority of the tests being X-ray procedures. The average total imaging cost per patient, per year doubled during the study period, from $229 to $443.

The most striking finding was the increase in the number of newer and pricier tests such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans, according to the research team. In 1997, 13.5 percent of the study group had undergone a CT, MRI, or both, and in 2006 it was 21 percent. Study results showed the per-patient number of CT scans doubled over the 10 years, and the number of MRI scans tripled.

This increase in CT and MRI imaging appeared across the board, with no single patient group or disease group dominating, according to lead author Rebecca Smith-B
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