Experience With Medical Imaging Helps Lead to Reduction in Costs


Medical Imaging Costs



We forget sometimes that technology solutions, like medical imaging systems, were considered to be groundbreaking diagnostic tools when they first appeared in hospital settings. Today, medical scans are commonplace for quality health care delivery.

Like anyone with a bit of shiny new technology in their hands, the early adopters (radiologists) were enthusiastic proponents of the benefits to others (referring physicians). And, for the most part, the referrers generally responded as expected, but using imaging with a higher frequency when seeking a diagnosis for a wide variety of conditions.

However, Health Care Cost Institute reports that imaging is the slowest growing of all physician services among privately insured individuals and that Medicare imaging use (overall) is down in recent years.

Why Medical Imaging Costs Are Declining

Medical imaging costs peaked about six years ago as a result of radiologists’ increased understanding of when and where it made sense to order scans. Scans are a much more efficient means of using hospital resources, ruling out exploratory surgeries or not admitting patients for overnight stays.

The Medical Imaging Technology Alliance (MITA) confirmed the decline in medical imaging utilization in a recent news release, stressing the implications this data may have for policymakers and senior citizens. While spending on imaging services for each Medicare beneficiary has dropped 16.7 percent since 2006, Medicare spending on non-imaging services has grown 21.3 percent over that same time period.

“This analysis confirms that the downward trajectory of both imaging utilization and spending within Medicare has continued,” said Gail Rodriguez, Executive Director of MITA. “It is alarming that despite these ongoing trends, policymakers continue to consider threatening seniors’ access to life-saving medical imaging with more reckless cuts and restrictive policies.”

According to a study in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology, an abstract of which may be found here, medical imaging is not a driver of escalating Medicare costs. In fact, this study “runs counter to misconceptions that imaging scans serve a primary role in rising medical costs,” wrote lead author, David Levin, MD.

The Maturing Medical Imaging Market

Practice management has become the watchword for radiologists and doctors. With better information, providers reduce costs by ordering images only when they are needed. There’s no question that reimbursement cuts have made a big dent in imaging costs. But utilization also tightened as providers became more educated about when and which scans to order and radiation education efforts proliferated.

“Imaging has matured as it serves an increasingly vital role in modern health care,” Levin added. “Medical imaging software has truly become a vital asset to modern health care.”

How has medical imaging reduced costs in your organization?

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