Imaging scans still overused despite costs, risks

Imaging testing is often considered a driving force of escalating healthcare costs, as the tests are often expensive and overused.

Yet newly released Medicare data find that hospitals used double chest CT scans at almost the same rate in 2009 as they did in 2008, reports Kaiser Health News.

The number of Medicare patients getting two chest CT scans consecutively was 5.2 percent in 2009, a marginal drop from the 5.4 percent of patients the year before. The data suggest that many patients may be receiving two scans when all they need is one.

In addition to hospitals, clinics and medical groups also are overtesting patients. In Colorado, health officials have issued its largest fine of $3.2 million against Heart Check America for performing unnecessary imaging tests, reports the Associated Press.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the clinic used "unfair and deceptive business practices" to pressure patients into receiving unnecessary and pricey X-rays and CT scans.

The clinic is accused of conducting these CT scans on about 150 patients per week without orders or supervision from a licensed doctor, exposing them to potentially harmful radiation doses.

For more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- read the Associated Press article
- check out imaging data on the Hospital Compare website