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Health Aff (Millwood). 2010 Jan-Feb;29(1):189-95. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2009.0528.

Physician orders contribute to high-tech imaging slowdown.

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  • 1Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


The utilization rate of advanced diagnostic imaging (magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, and nuclear medicine) in Medicare outpatients rose 72.7 percent between 2000 and 2005, sparking concern among policymakers. However, analysis of discretionary use of these exams indicates that their use largely stabilized after 2005. Some have credited the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which sharply reduced reimbursements for advanced imaging done in physicians' offices. But the fact that the leveling was more pronounced in hospital outpatient facilities than in physicians' offices indicates that the explanation lies elsewhere. More likely, there has been a change in physicians' ordering patterns, possibly due to the influence of radiology business management companies (RBMs) and imaging guidelines promulgated by specialty societies.

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