Monday, March 2, 2009

Little Known Facts About Medical Scans

There was an interesting article in the New York Times today about medical scans. It seems that radiology centers are not required to be accredited, so there are no standards governing the quality of the scans being done.

According to the article, there is a great deal of discrepancy between good scans and bad scans, but insurers, including Medicare, pay the same price regardless of quality. In an example from the article, a woman had an MRI of her knee that was so bad the radiologist could not read it, but she went ahead and had surgery. The surgeon found no damage, and she still has knee pain. Her insurance company paid for the initial scan, but would not pay for a follow-up scan, and they paid for the unnecessary surgery.

Imaging centers can choose to be accredited by the American College of Radiology, which does requires that technicians be certified and provides standards for physicians. A new Medicare law was passed recently that will only allow Medicare to pay for scans at accredited centers, but this law does not go into effect until 2012.

Until there is more regulation, there is little for a health care consumer to do. The article does suggest however that consumers ask why the scan is needed, ask about the center's accreditation, ask about the technician's credentials, and ask how old the scanner is. Scanners more than 10 years old are much more likely to produce poor quality scans, because the technology has improved so much in the past 10 years.

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