Is declining medical imaging use driving up hospital stays and medical costs?

October 23, 2012

A new report by the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute shows that the length of the average hospital stay in the United States has increased at the same time as use of medical imaging scans has declined. It is unclear if the trends are related, but potentially important, as hospital admissions are among the largest, and fastest growing, health care costs. More research is needed to assess the potential negative impact of government and private insurer imaging reductions on overall medical costs and patient safety.

"Lawmakers, regulators and medical professionals are making medical imaging without fully understanding or examining their downstream effects—which may include an increase in hospital stays, associated costs and other adverse events. We need to examine imaging, as it relates to a patient's overall continuum of care, to ensure that decision makers don't create imaging cost reduction policies which paradoxically raise overall costs, create barriers to care, and ultimately harm patients," said Richard Duszak, MD, and senior research fellow of the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute.

Much of a building body of research regarding medical imaging focuses on declining costs and utilization of imaging. There is relatively little research focused on imaging as a component of overall patient care. For many serious indications, imaging scans have been shown to reduce the number of invasive surgeries, unnecessary hospital admissions and length of hospital stays. Rarer still is data on the effect of $6 billion in funding reductions for imaging diagnosis and treatment planning since 2006. The information that is available is not necessarily positive in terms of patient safety and access to care.

This is the first policy brief produced by the Neiman Institute, which conducts and supports research regarding medical imaging use, quality and safety metrics, and human resources as medicine moves toward non-traditional, value-based payment and delivery. The data gleaned from these efforts will serve as the basis for true, evidence-based medical imaging policy.

"We need to take a hard look at the cost, access and quality and safety issues related to present government and private insurer policies and find ways to maximize the value, role and efficiency of radiology as health care systems evolve. The Neiman Institute will provide much needed information to ensure that future imaging policies benefit patients and make efficient, effective use of resources," said Duszak.

Explore further: Non-invasive diagnostic imaging costs to Medicare Part B down significantly since 2006

Related Stories

Non-invasive diagnostic imaging costs to Medicare Part B down significantly since 2006

September 4, 2012
According to a study in the Sept. issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology, overall non-invasive diagnostic imaging (NDI) costs to Medicare Part B dropped 21 percent from 2006 to 2010. The study reveals that ...

ACR in Choosing Wisely campaign to promote wise use of resources among physicians and patients

December 14, 2011
As part of its ongoing efforts to ensure safe, effective and appropriate medical imaging, the American College of Radiology has joined the ABIM Foundation and eight other medical specialty societies in Choosing Wisely. The ...

ACR: Medical imaging study in health affairs incomplete and potentially misleading

July 25, 2012
In response to a study published in the August issue of Health Affairs regarding declining medical imaging use in recent years, the American College of Radiology (ACR) released a statement explaining that physician education ...

Radiology is front and center in health care reform

October 1, 2012
While it's leveling off, a decade of increased use of sophisticated, expensive, imaging studies has put radiologists and their specialty front and center in health care reform, says the chair of an academic radiology department.

Self-referral: A significant factor in imaging growth

July 1, 2011
A recent study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology suggests that self-referral in medical imaging may be a significant contributing factor in diagnostic imaging growth.

Recommended for you

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

Team eradicates hepatitis C in 10 patients following lifesaving transplants from infected donors

April 30, 2017
Ten patients at Penn Medicine have been cured of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) following lifesaving kidney transplants from deceased donors who were infected with the disease. The findings point to new strategies for increasing ...

'bench to bedside to bench': Scientists call for closer basic-clinical collaborations

March 24, 2017
In the era of genome sequencing, it's time to update the old "bench-to-bedside" shorthand for how basic research discoveries inform clinical practice, researchers from The Jackson Laboratory (JAX), National Human Genome Research ...

The ethics of tracking athletes' biometric data

January 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—Whether it is a FitBit or a heart rate monitor, biometric technologies have become household devices. Professional sports leagues use some of the most technologically advanced biodata tracking systems to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.