New Report Establishes Research Guidelines to Evaluate Repeat Medical Imaging

Neiman Institute Classifications Enables Identification of High-Value Diagnostic Imaging Tests Essential for Cost-Effective Patient Care

Feb 20, 2013, 11:00 ET from Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It is inaccurate to assert that repeat patient testing is synonymous with excessive and unnecessary health care costs, according to a new report that provides a classification system that can identify useful imaging testing and aid regulators and insurers in developing sensible, effective utilization and payment policies.

The report by the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute provides guidelines for health policy researchers to evaluate the appropriateness and efficiency of repeat medical imaging tests.  One of the report's authors, Neiman Institute CEO and Research Fellow Richard Duszak, M.D., said some health policy influencers and payers have a confusing, ambiguous understanding of what constitutes repeat testing and do not have uniform mechanisms to separate those tests that are valuable and essential from those that have less value.

"This report goes to the heart of what health reform is intended to achieve," said Dr. Duszak.  "The goal of health reform is to contain costs without impeding patient access to care. Sometimes, health care delivery and payment policies are shaped by a misconception that repeat testing is, by definition, unnecessary and wasteful. This report clarifies the different types of repeat imaging and provides guidelines that can enable evaluation of which tests bring value to both patients and the health care system."

Dr. Duszak said, "There is a significant difference, for example, between a follow-up CT scan performed to confirm a small lung cancer and thus enable effective treatment, and simultaneous injudicious CT, x-ray and MRI tests for a patient with abdominal pain. In the latter case, only one may be necessary to provide the physician information for a definitive diagnosis. But we don't currently have a uniform clinically meaningful classification system to aid payers and policy makers in defining repeat imaging based on necessity and health care value."

The guidelines, he said, were developed with input from multiple health policy researchers and clinical content experts. He added that they provide a framework that can be applied to a wide range of types of testing.

"We have access to more health care data than ever before," said Dr. Duszak. "We need to use this information to strengthen health reform and better serve patients. Let's replace broad assumptions about repeat testing with clinically meaningful guidelines that will enable us to conserve resources and achieve better health outcomes."

The Neiman Institute conducts research regarding medical imaging use, quality and safety metrics, and human resources as medical payment and delivery systems evolve. Data from these efforts is the basis for true, evidence-based medical imaging policy.

SOURCE Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute