Patient education factors into decline of MRI utilization

After a decade-long increase, the use of magnetic resonance imaging for Medicare began to decline four years ago, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers, led by Richard Sharpe of Thomas Jefferson Medical Center in Philadelphia, examined Medicare Part B data sets between 1998 and 2010 for all MRI examinations performed in the Medicare Population. As reported in, Sharpe and his colleagues suggested that education initiatives such as Image Wisely and Choose Wisely, along with resources like the American College of Radiology's appropriateness criteria, have had an impact on utilization, which hit a high of 189 per 1,000 beneficiaries in 2008, but decreased to 183 per 1,000 beneficiaries just two years later.

The annual growth rate in MR exams from 1998 to 2008 was 10 percent, while the utilization rate in 2010 represented a decrease of 3.1 percent from the 2009 utilization rate.

The researchers also believe that today's patients are more educated about the appropriateness of advanced imaging examinations.

"There has been an increase in public awareness of, and perhaps the unnecessary use of, advanced medical imaging," the researchers said. "Several articles in the news media have focused on the increased cost, inconvenience, and radiation exposure of unnecessary medical imaging. Anecdotally, we are aware of patients refusing to obtain tests that they feel are not necessary. 

"Perhaps," the researchers added, "more than in the past, patients today want to know, 'Do I need this test?' before undergoing advanced medical imaging."

To learn more:
- read the study abstract
- see the article in


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