Ethics in Medicine

Americans receive too much radiation from diagnostic scans

Kristen Sparrow • March 06, 2009

Yay for the USA!!
In yet another version of “follow the money…”
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Overexposed: Imaging tests boost U.S. radiation dose

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Americans are exposed to seven times more radiation from diagnostic scans than in 1980, a report found on Tuesday as experts said doctors are overusing the tests for profit and raising health risks for patients.
The findings, issued by National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement, add to already mounting evidence that doctors are ordering too many diagnostic tests, driving up the cost of healthcare in the United States and potentially harming patients…
“Unfortunately, one of the things we have seen in the imaging world is that many physicians look at imaging as the solution to their financial problems,” Thrall, head of radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a telephone interview.
He said imaging technology has created a financial incentive for some doctors to cash in by referring patients to get imaging tests on equipment in their own practices. This is one place the federal government and Congress can look in enacting healthcare reform, Thrall added.
A study by the Government Accountability Office in July found Medicare spending on medical imaging doubled to about $14 billion a year between 2000 and 2006, driven largely by increases in high-tech imaging.”

There’s more at the link about the actual increase in numbers of scans done. But the other part of it is that thousands of NON-radiologists have purchased imaging equipment for their offices. This helps these practitioners with their bottom lines, but helps to drive up the cost of health care and could endanger patients. The number of these tests in self-referred offices has tripled for Medicare patients from 1998 to 2005. And one can only assume that they’ve continued to increase since then.

from the article “”There is a fundamental problem when the person ordering the study has a direct financial interest in maximizing the use of a particular piece of equipment,” Thrall said.”