Even as the number of medical imaging scans has decreased in the United States, the length of average hospital stay has increased according to a new report released by Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute.
It is unclear if the trends are related, but potentially important, as hospital admissions are among the largest, and fastest growing, health care costs. More research is needed to assess the potential negative impact of government and private insurer imaging reductions on overall medical costs and patient safety.
"Lawmakers, regulators and medical professionals are making medical imaging policy decisions without fully understanding or examining their downstream effects which may include an increase in hospital stays, associated costs and other adverse events. We need to examine imaging, as it relates to a patient's overall continuum of care, to ensure that decision makers don't create imaging cost reduction policies which paradoxically raise overall costs, create barriers to care, and ultimately harm patients," said Richard Duszak, MD, chief executive officer and senior research fellow of the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute.
This is the first policy brief produced by the Neiman Institute, which conducts and supports research regarding medical imaging use, quality and safety metrics, and human resources as medicine moves toward non-traditional, value-based payment and delivery. The data gleaned from these efforts will serve as the basis for true, evidence-based medical imaging policy.
"We need to take a hard look at the cost, access and quality and safety issues related to present government and private insurer medical imaging policies and find ways to maximize the value, role and efficiency of radiology as health care systems evolve. The Neiman Institute will provide much needed information to ensure that future imaging policies benefit patients and make efficient, effective use of health care resources," said Duszak.