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Study suggests repeat testing common among medicare beneficiaries
Date:11/19/2012

CHICAGO A study suggests that diagnostic tests are frequently repeated among Medicare beneficiaries, according to a report published Online First by Archives of Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.

Repeat examinations are a "major determinant" of a physician's capacity to care for new patients and of the ability to contain health care costs, the authors write in the study background.

H. Gilbert Welch, M.D., M.P.H., of Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., and colleagues examined patterns of repeat testing in a longitudinal study of a 5 percent random sample of Medicare beneficiaries. They also studied the relationship between the proportion of the population tested and the proportion of tests repeated among those tested using the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas as the unit of analysis.

"We examined repetitive testing for six commonly performed diagnostic tests in which repeat testing is not routinely anticipated. Although we expected a certain fraction of examinations to be repeated, we were struck by the magnitude of that fraction: one-third to one-half of these tests are repeated within a three-year period. This finding raises the question whether some physicians are routinely repeating diagnostic tests," the authors note.

The study results indicate that among Medicare beneficiaries undergoing echocardiography (examination of the heart), 55 percent had a second test within three years. Repeat testing for the other examinations also was common: 44 percent of imaging stress tests were repeated within three years, as were 49 percent of pulmonary function tests, 46 percent of chest computed tomography, 41 percent of cystoscopies (an examination of the bladder), and 35 percent of upper endoscopies (examination of the digestive tract).

The proportion of the population tested and the proportion of tests repeated also varied across metropolitan statistical areas, according to the results.

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Contact: Annmarie Christensen
annmarie.christensen@dartmouth.edu
603-653-0897
JAMA and Archives Journals
Source:Eurekalert

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