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May 25, 2009

Imaging Idolatry: The Uneasy Intersection of Patient Satisfaction, Quality of Care, and Overuse

Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(10):921-923. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.124

Medical imaging is a growth industry. A 2008 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that in just 7 years, from 2000 through 2006, Medicare spending for imaging more than doubled to approximately $14 billion. Most of the growth was in advanced imaging such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging.1 In the particular case of lumbar spine imaging, MR images covered by Medicare increased 307% between 1994 and 2005.2 The GAO linked spending growth, in part, to a shift of more advanced imaging from hospitals into physician offices. It also noted wide geographic variability in the use of imaging, “suggesting that not all utilization was necessary or appropriate.”1(p5)

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