PHYSICIAN OWNED MRI MACHINES RESULT IN MORE UNWARRANTED SCANS AND POSSIBLE MEDICARE FRAUD STUDY SAYS

Doctors who own their own MRI machines order far more unecessary tests for their patients that physicians who do not own such equipment and a large percentage of these tests are paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. This is the finding of a reported presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting in Chicago. This is a conflict of interest issue for physicians and could also be Medicare fraud if the scans are not really necessary. The new findings suggest that studying these the issue can help shape more effective health care cost cuts. Medical imaging overall cost Medicare some $14.1 billion in 2006 — about twice as much as in 2000, according to a 2008 U.S. Government Accountability Office report. About $3.9 billion of that was from physicians who referred patients for imaging in their own offices, according to a July Journal of the American College of Radiology paper, co-authored by Ramsey Kilani, also of Duke, who worked on the new study as well.Reducing doctor ownership of these scanners might be difficult in the short-term. So as these income-generating machines proliferate in physicians’ portfolios, the next time your doctor orders an MRI, it might be worth asking about the financial arrangement—or getting a second opinion from a doctor who hasn’t invested in equipment.