Medical Imaging’s Growth Leaves Standards In The Dust, Critics Say

Business is so excellent — about 1,a month — that a second Blue Star Imaging opened this season in Flower Mound 000 scans, Texas. 100 billion a 12 months nationally. That’s expected to double by 2012, according to America’s Medical health insurance Plans, a business trade group. Dr. Richard Strax, chief executive of the Texas Radiological Society. And that has led, as the country debates healthcare overhaul, to concerns that doctors are generating up costs by buying unneeded scans.

Much evidence points toward imaging for an example of one way in which the health care market is damaged. More imaging machines have intended significant increases used, and increasing costs for American taxpayers and consumers. Melanie Nallicheri, a partner at Booz & Co. who analyzed medical technology’s role in increasing medical costs. Computed tomography, or CT, combines X-ray and computer technology to make a multidimensional picture of the physical body. Magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, uses magnets.

Up to half of all high-tech scans for several conditions may not lead to improved patient medical diagnosis or treatment “and may be looked at redundant or unnecessary,” the America’s Medical health insurance Plans record said. A McKinsey Global Institute study found that extra U.S. 26.4 billion in additional costs for CT and MRI scans annually. Susan Pisano, vice president of communications at America’s Health insurance Plans.

It’s not just a pocketbook issue. Studies have recommended that excessive CT imaging could give patients unhealthy doses of rays, putting them at risk for cancer tumor. Doctors say most high-tech scans are done to discover the best of medical reasons — early detection of disease, more complete diagnoses of assessments and accidental injuries of treatment. Dr. Rick Snyder, president of the Texas Chapter of the American College of Cardiology.

However, some doctors order scans of insubstantial medical value to protect themselves against potential malpractice promises, health-care specialists say. Others may do it for financial reasons firmly, referring patients for scans to be done on machines they own. Costs that could have required disclosure of doctors’ financial interests in imaging providers failed within the last session of the Texas Legislature after strong opposition from the medical lobby.

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The percentage of imaging Medicare reimbursements for scans performed in doctors’ offices increased from 58 percent to 64 percent between 2000 and 2006, according to a recently available statement by the national Federal government Accountability Office, a congressional watchdog. GAO said in its record. CTs are great at discovering appendicitis, helpful with tumor diagnoses, and used to look at the upper body commonly. MRIs are used to diagnose some fractures frequently, tumors or degenerative joint disorders, such as arthritis.

Paul Keckley, professional director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. Several factors have triggered imaging use to skyrocket, industry observers say. An aging population means more people who are sicker and need more medical services. Also, new systems aren’t replacing old; they together are used. For example, MRI hasn’t replaced traditional X-rays.