Study: Cardiologists seeing more patients for less pay

Cardiologists are on something of a treadmill; they're seeing steadily more patients and and performing more tests, but their reimbursement rates are falling for both Medicare beneficiaries and privately-insured patients. 

A new study to be released this week by cardiology services provider MedAxiom has found that office visits to cardiologists went up 12 percent, a trend in line with previous years. That squares with another statistic compiled by researchers, that patient return visits had climbed 34 percent since the year 2000.

When patients did arrive, cardiologists typically performed at least one echocardiography test per day last year, a year-over-year increase of 15 percent.  More tellingly, that's a 43 percent increase from the number of echocardiograms performed five years ago. Meanwhile, cardiologists said they were performing an average of more than two electrocardiograms per day every year.

All these tests come at a price, however. Cardiologists spent more than $710,000 on practice overhead in 2008, more than ever recorded before.