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Emerg Radiol. 2012 Jun;19(3):187-93. doi: 10.1007/s10140-011-1016-x. Epub 2012 Jan 13.

Formal reporting of second-opinion CT interpretation: experience and reimbursement in the emergency department setting.

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Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Ave, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


The purpose of this study is to describe a system for formally reporting second-opinion interpretations of CT imaging exams accompanying patients transferred emergently to a tertiary care center. Second-opinion interpretations of cross-sectional imaging exams rendered in the emergency department setting over 6 months spanning 22 September 2009 to 22 March 2010 were reviewed and tallied by two radiologists and a research assistant, with a focus on professional fee reimbursement rates. A more in depth review was performed of those exams for which a clinical referral request form was available, detailing such information as the clinical history, content and source of available initial interpretation, and congruity of the initial interpretation with clinical data. Discrepancies between outside and second-opinion interpretations were also assessed. This quality assurance exercise was reviewed by our institutional review board, which waived formal informed consent. Formal second-opinion interpretation was rendered for 370 exams on 198 patients (mean age, 53.5 years; 45.1% female), received from 50 referring facilities. Head CT was the most common imaging exam referred for second opinion. Forty-one of 370 exams (11%) were submitted for self-pay, and 43 (12%) were written off as free care. The remaining 286 exams (77%) were submitted for reimbursement of the professional fee only. Ultimately, of the 286 exams submitted, 260 (91%) were reimbursed for professional fees, 199 (70%) on the initial submission. Of 29 health plans contracted with our facility, 22 ultimately approved all claims made. Three plans denied all claims submitted. The largest payer was Medicare, which reimbursed 88 of 90 submitted claims. Clinical intake forms were available for 184 exams on 107 patients (mean age, 52.7 years, 43.0% female). Trauma was the most common indication, or history, provided (55% of 184 exams, 40% of 107 patients). An outside report of some form was available for 112 of the 184 exams (61%), although only 18 were formal, signed radiology reports from the referring facility. Discrepancies between available outside reports and second-opinion interpretations were noted for 17 out of 112 exams. Need for reimaging was substantially curtailed, with only ten exams repeated within 24 h. A formal process for issuing second-opinion interpretations of cross-sectional exams performed at outside institutions is feasible in the emergency department setting. In the majority of cases, reimbursement for full professional fees can be obtained.

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