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Health Aff (Millwood). 2010 Dec;29(12):2237-43. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2009.1081.

The practice of imaging self-referral doesn't produce much one-stop service.

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American College of Radiology, Reston, Virginia, USA.


Imaging as a result of self-referral-when a physician refers patients for imaging tests at a facility owned or leased by the same physician-is widespread. The practice has come under much scrutiny because it is associated with higher volumes of imaging services. Proponents of such self-referral argue that the practice offers patients convenient same-day, one-stop service and allows treatment to start sooner. Our analysis of 2006 and 2007 Medicare data showed that self-referral provided same-day imaging for 74 percent of straightforward x-rays, but for only 15 percent of more-advanced procedures such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Policy makers attempting to make the use of imaging more responsible should consider narrowing Medicare's special provision allowing referrals to a physician's own practice so that the provision covers x-rays only.

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