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Medical Imaging War Pits Doctor vs. Doctor

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, February 10, 2011

The fallout is just beginning in Maryland over the state’s highest court’s decision last month that upheld a state law prohibiting physicians from referring patients for MRI, CT and radiation therapy services to providers in their own group practice.                                                                              

Radiologists, who applauded the court’s decision, and orthopedists, who were on the losing end of the court’s determination, each say their arguments were made on behalf of patients. But the court battle also was about doctor vs. doctor, over money, with the backdrop of healthcare reform in the debate.

The radiologists say the case was one of selfish self-referral, pure and simple. “Studies have shown that there is very little, if any patient benefit to self-referral of advanced imaging and radiation therapy,” says John A. Patti, MD, chair of the American College of Radiology board of chancellors, quoted by John Commins in HealthLeaders Media. “Instead the practice often results in significant unnecessary utilization of imaging, unwarranted radiation exposure, lower quality of care and increased cost that is ultimately passed on to patients.”

Siding with the radiologists, Baltimore Sun columnist Jay Hancock also wrote recently that having the door open for such self-referrals is, “what’s choking American healthcare.” He added, “The system is becoming unaffordable because of many unneeded heart stents, lab tests, surgeries and MRI scans.”

Lost in all this, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, is that having the in-office referrals makes healthcare easier for patients. “Significant technological advances have been made in our field so that patients can receive timely and available screenings from the comfort of their doctor’s office,” says John J. Callaghan, MD, president of the academy.

“This ruling could have a dramatic effect on the treatment and quality of the care of Maryland patients,” Callaghan says. “In the interests of our patients, the academy will maintain our commitment to this issue.”

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1 comments on "Medical Imaging War Pits Doctor vs. Doctor"


joe (2/15/2011 at 11:00 AM)
the key to affordable, quality, integrated care is to take the profit motive OUT of health care, along with the greedy, unnecessary insurance companies and do what's best for the patients, and cover ALL Americans with basic health care at a lower cost...Canada does it well and for about 60% of the cost in US, per person...if we could take the slimy politicians and corporate whores out of the equation then it would work here too!