Onsite Medical Imaging Equipment Concerns Researchers - InformationWeek
Healthcare // Analytics
02:44 PM

Onsite Medical Imaging Equipment Concerns Researchers

Beginning Jan. 1, doctors must disclose their financial interest when referring Medicare and Medicaid patients for certain advanced imaging services within their practices.

17 Leading EHR Vendors
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 17 Leading EHR Vendors
Owning or leasing medical equipment was more likely to occur at larger group practices with more than 50 physicians, where 56% own or lease clinical lab equipment, 62% own or lease X-ray machines, and 53% own or lease advanced imaging equipment such as CT or MRI scanners. At these facilities, equipment can be used more consistently and costs recouped more quickly, a new report concludes.

The data, from the Center for Studying Health System Change's 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey, was released last Wednesday. Under health reform law, beginning January 1 physicians are required to disclose their financial interest when referring Medicare and Medicaid patients for certain advanced imaging services, including MRI and CT scans, within their practices, and must also provide patients with a list of alternative suppliers.

The report also revealed that at practices with one or two physicians, 16% own or lease clinical lab equipment, 9% own or lease X-ray equipment, and 7% own or lease advanced imaging equipment.

The document notes that policymakers are concerned that physicians with ownership or other financial interests in medical facilities and equipment may make more referrals than medically necessary. It also said the Stark Act, which took effect in 1992 and was enacted to bar physician self-referrals of Medicare patients for clinical laboratory services, has lost its effectiveness.

"The Stark law was expanded to cover Medicaid patients and other health services, including inpatient and outpatient hospital services and radiology services. However, there are numerous exceptions to the self-referral prohibitions, most notably if the service is provided within the physician's office or practice," the report said.

"Since the enactment of the Stark laws, technological advances have allowed more services to be provided in outpatient settings, including physicians' offices. At the same time, the cost and scale of high-tech equipment, including advanced imaging equipment, such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, has declined, making office-based installations more feasible from a business perspective," found the survey.

The report relied on input from 2,750 physicians in community-based, physician-owned practices who were asked whether their main practice owned or leased equipment used for laboratory testing, including routine blood work; X-rays; other diagnostic imaging, such as CT or MRI scans; non-invasive testing besides electrocardiograms, such as echocardiograms, treadmill, nuclear testing, and sleep testing; and invasive procedures, such as endoscopy or cardiac catheterization.

Overall, 25% reported their practice owned or leased equipment for laboratory services, 23% for X-rays, 17% for advanced imaging, 29% for non-invasive procedures, and 11% for invasive procedures. Overall, almost one in seven physicians (13%) reported that their practice owned or leased three or more types of equipment.

The report noted that Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have taken action to make physicians' ownership and use of some types of advanced imaging less attractive by cutting Medicare reimbursements.

It said that, "given the growing evidence that physician self-referral contributes to unnecessary and costly care, policymakers might reconsider the broadness of the in-office ancillary service exemption to the Stark law."

"Ultimately, moving away from fee-for-service payment toward payment mechanisms that reimburse physicians for a broader unit of service, such as an episode of care, or putting physicians at least partially at risk for the cost of care will alter the financial incentives that now encourage physician self-referrals," concluded the report.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of the Cloud Report
As the use of public cloud becomes a given, IT leaders must navigate the transition and advocate for management tools or architectures that allow them to realize the benefits they seek. Download this report to explore the issues and how to best leverage the cloud moving forward.
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of November 6, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll