QualityImaging.org is the home of MEDIC, the Medical Excellence in Diagnostic Imaging Campaign. MEDIC is working to save taxpayers billions in Medicare costs and improve patient quality by establishing quality standards for advanced medical imaging.
Why are quality standards for advanced medical imaging necessary?
The growth in advanced medical imaging is a major factor in the rising cost of Medicare. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have identified skyrocketing medical imaging costs as a primary factor behind a record percentage spike in Medicare physician spending for 2004, which is more than double the rate of increase in previous years.
Unfortunately, studies have found that physician self-referral and profit-motive, rather than patient need, are driving this spike in utilization. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that non-radiologists who perform their own imaging procedures are up to 7 times more likely to order tests than physicians with no financial interest in the radiology practice to which they are referring patients. And a GAO report states that imaging increases by 54% when non-radiologists refer patients to facilities in which they have a financial interest.
As a result, quality imaging and Medicare patient safety are at risk. Numerous studies have shown that radiologists are significantly more accurate in the interpretation of medical images than non- radiologists. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Missouri research states that nearly one third of imaging procedures ordered by non-radiologists may be unnecessary. Unwarranted tests, by definition, may needlessly expose patients to radiation.
Quality standards, such as requiring certification to utilize advanced imaging equipment and requiring safety inspections of all equipment on an annual basis, can save Medicare $5 billion over the next 10 years and improve patient safety. Quality standards are already working to ensure that breast cancer victims are diagnosed at earlier stages through improved imaging. And private payers, such as UnitedHealth Group, Anthem, Tufts Health Plan, and Blue Cross Blue Shield, have already enacted guidelines ensuring that there is little, if any, additional burden placed on physicians to comply with quality assurance standards for advanced medical imaging.
On this site, you’ll learn more about the rising cost of Medicare, the problems with the dramatic growth in advanced imaging, and MEDIC’s solutions to improve patient quality and save taxpayer dollars.