Research Finds Self-Referral Likely Driving Up Use of MRIs in One Community

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Duke University researchers point to physician self-referral as possibly driving up utilization among imaging facilities in one particular community. The study of lumbar spine MRIs, presented at the recent RSNA 2011 conference, confirmed findings in many other studies that physician-ownership likely plays a role in the number of procedures a group of physicians authorize. The researchers at Duke “analyzed 500 consecutive diagnostic lumbar spine MRIs ordered by two separate referring physician groups serving the same geographic community,” one with ownership-interest, the other without, the abstract states. The names of the groups remain confidential. The study found 86 percent more negative test results in the group with ownership interest compared to the group without. Researchers reviewed 250 tests for each group of physicians. There were 163 negative results in the group with ownership interest and just 57 in the non-ownership group. The authors suggest the study might serve as a metric for policy decisions around appropriate utilization. To read the abstract presented at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) 97th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting on Nov. 30, 2011, click here.