Imaging Utilization Down for Cardiologists, Survey Finds

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A survey of cardiologists conducted last year by MedAxiom and the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC) challenges the idea that overutilization of imaging is a growing problem in that specialty. On average, the cardiologists surveyed recorded 29 percent more patient visits since 2004 but performed fewer imaged stress studies.

The survey revealed that these tests were performed on one of every 11 cardiology patients in 2011, as opposed to one of every seven in 2008. The data came from more than 110 practices, representing more than 2,000 cardiologists. On average, each cardiologist recorded more than 2,100 patient visits.

Why the decline in imaging utilization? The study authors put forth five factors that likely combined to reduce the use of imaged stress studies. These were:

  • Increasing adoption of Appropriate Use Criteria.
  • Higher deductibles and co-pays for those with insurance.
  • Increased awareness of radiation optimization.
  • The use of Provider-Based billing by integrated cardiology practices.
  • An intermittent shortage of Molybdenum-99, a key radioactive isotope in conducting the tests.

In the press release, John Mahmarian, M.D., president of ASNC, also credited his society’s participation in the Choosing Wisely initiative. “Nuclear cardiology imaging plays, and will continue to play, an important role diagnosing and treating heart disease. Our doctors have been vigilant in prescribing the appropriate use of these tests as defined by our participation in the Choosing Wisely initiative,” he stated in the release.