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$8.4 Million Deal: Cut Imaging Without Coercion

July 2, 2012
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Practice Management
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“OK, we’ll give you $8.4 million to figure out a way to reduce unnecessary imaging in southeast Michigan by up to 17 percent. But whatever you come up with can’t reduce diagnostic accuracy. And it can’t include restrictions on ordering imaging tests. Deal?”

That’s the challenge that Altarum Institute of Ann Arbor, Michigan, accepted from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The grant is one of 107 that make up the CMS’s Health Care Innovation Awards. The CMS doled them out in May and June. The awards program is one of the minor eddies in the great tide of health-care change known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—newly validated by the Supreme Court.

Altarum is a nonprofit health-care consulting organization. It plans to partner with United Physicians, an organization of independent doctors, and the Detroit Medical Center Physician Hospital Organization. The goal is adherence to the American College of Radiology imaging guidelines.

Specifically, Altarum is supposed to reduce CT volume by 17.4 percent and MRI volume by 13.4 percent over the three-year life of the project. That, the CMS calculates, would save $33.2 million.

Altarum plans to use clinical decision support as its key mechanism. In a news release, it said, “The three-year project will embed clinical guidelines in the image ordering process, leverage health information exchange capabilities to increase awareness of past imaging results and use patient education campaigns to offset patient-induced demand for medically unnecessary imaging.”

Altarum Vice President Dan Armijo, quoted in the same release, said:

In essence, this project is about empowering physicians to provide better care, by making it a little easier to decide when to order an imaging study.

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