New guidelines unveiled for evaluation of repeat medical imaging

A new set of guidelines for the evaluation of repeat medical imaging should help lawmakers, regulators and insurers develop more effective utilization and payment policies, according to a new report issued by the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute.

"Existing studies on repeat imaging use ambiguous definitions, and thus lack a consistent and effective mechanism to determine how much of this testing is appropriate. This has led to confusion and could result in actions by regulators and insurers that may not best serve patients," Richard Duszak, M.D., chief executive officer and senior research fellow of the Neiman Institute, said in an announcement. "These guidelines can help researchers separate useful testing from that which is not, thus conserving resources and ensuring that patients get the care they need."

In an article for The Hill's Congress Blog, Duszak wrote that the report hopefully will "dispel the notion that repeat testing is automatically synonymous with excessive spending and health system abuse."

The report categorizes different kinds of repeat testing--supplementary imaging, duplicative imaging, following-up imaging, and unrelated imaging--and, according to Duszak, explains how a repeat imaging exam can be essential to protecting patient health and preventing even greater downstream health spending. It also helps researchers and policymakers identify those imaging exams that are less diagnostically appropriate.

"I'm not suggesting that there aren't tests that don't meet standards of effectiveness and necessity. That happens much more than we'd like," Duszak wrote in the Congress Blog article. "And that's why many of us see real time clinical decision support as being part of the solution--just like better electronic imaging and health record integration--in moving the imaging value proposition forward.

"But, as the Neiman report makes clear, we'll never have meaningful and productive discussions about improving our system if we paint repeat imaging with broad brush strokes."

To learn more:
- see the Neiman Institute report
- see the announcement
- read the article in The Hill