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New Study Shows That Imaging Use Declines

New data from the Moran Company released by the Access to Medical Imaging Coalition earlier this month shows that imaging service delivery declined in 2009 by 7.1 percent overall and that that the volume of advanced imaging services has decreased by .1 percent. The study indicates that Medicare reimbursement cuts might be hampering patients’ abilities to gain access to advanced medical imaging procedures.

“The analysis found that Medicare spending for advanced imaging services increased by less than half the spending growth for physician services overall,” said Don Moran, president of The Moran Company.

The study looked at the volume of advanced imaging services and Medicare spending on CT, MRI and Nuclear Medicine from 1999 through 2009. The Moran Company’s results were in line with a previous study from 2008 that found a 19.2 percent reduction in Medicare spending on advanced imaging from 2006 through 2007 and an imaging volume growth rate of just 1.9 percent.

Other critical services were found to be in decline – for instance, the total volume of mammography screening decreased by .3 percent in 2009.

Behind these numbers, what is the patient story? Dr. John A. Patti, MD and chair of the American College of Radiology Board of Chancellors provided an excellent summary of what these statistics mean to patients.

“Advanced imaging is a critical tool for the early detection of disease, which is directly related to beneficial outcomes and extension of lives… The trend of reduced volume of imaging among Medicare beneficiaries is a concern for doctors who rely on these services to ensure optimal care for their patients.”

Patti is right. Patients depend on advanced medical imaging. The takeaway here is the essential nature of advocacy for these services – to ensure that patients, including Medicare beneficiaries, receive consistent access to the right scan at the right time. Early detection and lives depend on it.

Read more in the February 2011 Newsletter

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