The next time you stop over in a doctor’s office for an imaging study, you may want to ask who owns the device. Researchers now say that when doctors have a financial interest in imaging equipment, the tests are often negative. This does not mean that the test was done wrongly- it simply means that the doctors order far too many tests in people who do not need it.
The latest report by Dr. Ben Paxton of Duke University
Medical Center shows that when patients are referred for additional studies by physicians who actually own the imaging equipment, have significantly far more negative scans than doctors with no financial interest in the equipment.
In the last decade, Medicare funding for diagnostic imaging has grown exponentially for a variety of reasons including patient demand, practice of defensive medicine and improved technology. Of the funding, close to 70% goes to physicians including radiologists.
In the study done by Dr. Paxton and colleagues, they looked at non-radiology physicians who owned scanning devices and the ordering of imaging studies. After reviewing the charts of patients, they discovered that there was a high negative rate in studies ordered by doctors who had a financial interest in the devices compared to physicians who had no financial interest in the machines. Fortunately they did not observe that the rate of positive scans were any different between the two groups.
Clearly, this again verifies the belief that some doctors have imaging equipment in the office only for financial gain. This does not only pertain to imaging studies but to many other tests. Based on this study, if the positive rates for disease detection are same for both groups but one group has a high number of negative scans, then it does make one wonder why so many studies are being ordered!
Dr. Paxton suggests that there should be far stricter control on medical equipment in doctor’s office and there should be more transparency on ownership. Although there are state laws, most doctors get around them by making exotic leasing arrangements.
In order to control doctors gouging on unnecessary testing, all the loopholes should be closed and the growth of this industry must be regulated. The healthcare system is already expensive as it and such practices also undermine patient confidence and trust. If doctors want to revive their reputation, then it is time that they develop transparency and honesty in their medical practice.