AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Coalition for Ethical Imaging (CEI), a grassroots coalition with the goal of improving diagnostic imaging practices in Texas, is supporting House Bill 1809, sponsored by Representative Senfronia Thompson. The bill includes several initiatives that will help rein in healthcare costs in the state while ensuring patient safety.
CEI's membership includes radiologists and other medical professionals, members of the business community interested in abating escalating healthcare costs, and other interested Texans. The Coalition consists of 23,000 Texans and more than 120,000 Texas businesses, including the Texas Association of Business, Texas Association of Health Plans, Texas Radiological Society, Texas Society of Radiologic Technologists and the Texas Chapter of the Radiology Business Managers Association.
The Coalition supports legislation in the 82nd Texas Legislature that will ensure that specific diagnostic imaging services in the state are safe, appropriately prescribed and performed, and cost effective. The group focuses its efforts on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and positron emission tomography (PET). CEI's scope does not include X-rays, ultrasound or mammography.
An Interim Report released in December by the House Committee on Public Health supports many of the Coalition's recommendations regarding advanced diagnostic imaging in the state. The Interim Committee was charged with identifying factors influencing healthcare cost trends in Texas, which included investigating medical imaging utilization and its impact on the cost and quality of healthcare.
The Interim Committee report found that "increased utilization of imaging equipment has played a major role in the increase of healthcare expenses, especially when imaging equipment owners have been found to over-utilize their own equipment."
Key issues of concern to the Coalition that will be included in legislation under consideration include:
Healthcare costs, particularly those related to advanced diagnostic imaging, have skyrocketed nationally in recent years and Texas is no exception to this. Expenditures for diagnostic imaging services have grown at almost twice the rate of similar technologies in healthcare, and diagnostic imaging services have significantly outpaced the rate of growth for healthcare costs overall. The growth in the number of imaging equipment installations in Texas has also been significant.
Understanding what forces are fueling this dramatic growth is important not only for patient safety but also for fiscal responsibility. One of the main causes for the rise in utilization is thought to be the increase in physician ownership of imaging equipment, leading to so-called self-referral. While there is compelling evidence from other states that self-referral leads to over-utilization—self-referral has, in fact, been banned in at least 23 states—no accurate assessment of the problem has yet been performed in Texas. Data collection and analysis are the only way to determine the extent to which over-utilization fueled by self-referral is a problem in Texas.
The Coalition for Ethical Imaging is advocating a study by the Department of State Health Services that will compare the rates at which diagnostic imaging services are prescribed by physicians who have a financial interest in imaging equipment compared to rates for physicians of the same specialty who have no financial interest in such equipment.
Accreditation of advanced imaging facilities and registration of equipment
Radiology patients deserve safe, high-quality imaging. In fact, patients' lives and their well-being depend on the skill and expertise of the imaging technologist, and appropriate and safe operation of the imaging equipment.
Currently in Texas, accreditation of imaging facilities is voluntary. The CEI supports the development of a mandatory registration and accreditation system that would ensure that CT, MRI and PET services are provided by licensed professionals using equipment that is well-maintained and periodically inspected to be sure it is in safe, working condition.
In fact, the House Public Health Interim Committee report made the recommendation that "the Legislature should require the registration and accreditation of imaging equipment in order to ensure increased transparency and accountability for the operation and use of imaging equipment in Texas." The report goes on to state that "requiring the accreditation of imaging equipment would also help to ensure that the operator is trained to use and read information from the imaging machine." The CEI fully agrees with this recommendation and the rationale behind it.
Several states require disclosure of ownership or leasing of imaging equipment and facilities, including Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania. Unlike these states, there are no requirements in Texas for physicians to disclose to patients that they have a financial interest in the imaging centers/equipment to which they refer. CEI supports disclosure to patients when this situation occurs in which there is an inherent conflict of interest between a physician's duty to provide the most appropriate care to his/her patient vs. the physician's personal financial gain.
About the Coalition for Ethical Imaging
The Coalition for Ethical Imaging (CEI) is a grassroots coalition with the goal of improving diagnostic imaging practices in Texas. For more information, please visit www.ethicalimaging.org.
SOURCE The Coalition for Ethical Imaging