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Medicare Imaging Down; ACR Ponders ‘Hit List’

December 19, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Practice Management
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Medicare imaging is down, and the American College of Radiology is creating a list of imaging procedures that should be done less often.

Happy new year.

At a meeting last Friday, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) confirmed that Medicare imaging decreased 2.5 percent in 2010. MedPAC views that as a good thing; a slide presentation says the “decrease in use of imaging occurred amid concerns about appropriateness.”

Congress created MedPAC to advise it about Medicare issues. Expect the agency to continue having concerns about the appropriateness of some imaging tests.

Meanwhile, the ACR announced last week that it was joining the ABIM Foundation, eight other medical societies, and Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center in the new Choosing Wisely campaign. Choosing Wisely “promotes wise choices by physicians and patients to improve health outcomes, avoid unnecessary interventions and make efficient use of healthcare dollars,” according to an ACR news release.

The ABIM Foundation was created in 1999 by the American Board of Internal Medicine with, according to its Web site, a “mission of advancing medical professionalism into clinical policy and practice.”

Also involved in Choosing Wisely are the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Cardiology, American College of Physicians, American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Gastroenterological Association, American Society of Nephrology, and American Society of Nuclear Cardiology.

Each medical society has been asked to create a list of five tests or procedures commonly used in its field “whose necessity should be questioned or discussed,” according to Choose Wisely’s Web site.

The ACR is spinning this as a positive for imaging. Its news release quotes John A. Patti, MD, chair of the Board of Chancellors, as saying:

Scans lower healthcare costs by replacing more invasive surgeries and allowing for shorter hospital stays. Although imaging use is down significantly since 2008 and Medicare spending on imaging is the same as in 2004, opportunities remain to ensure appropriate ordering of scans.

Dr. Patti added: “As greater access to imaging is directly tied to increased life expectancy, ACR will identify areas where care can be improved without restricting patient access.”

We’ll see how it plays out when the lists of “should be questioned” procedures come out in April.

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