Self-Referral Fostering Diagnostic Imaging Growth

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Self-referral in medical imaging is a major catalyst in fostering diagnostic imaging growth, bolstering the use of imaging by 60% and increasing associated costs by more than $3 billion, indicates a new study published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

In the study, Ramsey Kilani, MD, of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. and his colleagues identified the relative risk of physicians referring patients for imaging to facilities in which those physicians maintain financial interest (i.e., self-referrers), compared with physicians referring patients for imaging to facilities in which they have no financial interest (radiologist referrers). A meta-analysis of the available medical literature showed that non-radiologist self-referrers of medical imaging are approximately 2.48 times more likely to order imaging than clinicians with no financial interest in imaging, which translates to an increased imaging utilization rate of 60 percent.

Moreover, the team cited a 2008 U.S. Government Accountability Office report, which showed that $14.1 billion was spent on diagnostic imaging in 2006. Of this amount, 64 percent, or $9 billion, was received by physicians’ offices; of that $9 billion, 68% went to non-radiologists. A theoretical associated cost of $3.6 billion was calculated, using the 60 percent utilization fraction attributable to self-referral.

Read the abstract.