Hospital-Centric Healthcare

Self-Referral of Imaging Studies as Weapon

January 11, 2011

According to a report in the January issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology, a study reveals that the total amount of Medicare payments to non-radiologist physicians for non-invasive diagnostic imaging is greater than that paid to radiologists.  The reason:  self-referral within non-radiology practices.

No real news as to the role of self-referral.

The question, though, for radiologists, even at the hospital level, is how the self-interest of cardiologists, primary care physicians and orthopedists, the non-radiology specialists receiving the most imaging money from Medicare, can be used by radiologists as a part of a strategy to capture more of the total market for imaging studies.

In other words, it’s one thing to be lobbying for changes in both state and federal self-referral laws, but quite another to use self-interest and “conflicts of interest” as tools at the medical staff and hospital administration level.  Said by the lead author of the study, the issue is a political hot potato.  Yes, it is, which is why it’s easier to toss into the laps of those on the medical staff than it is to toss all the way to the state capital or to Washington.

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