KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Government Report Questions Double Use Of CT Scans At Illinois, Florida Hospitals

Chicago Tribune: Doctors at Illinois hospitals are coming under closer scrutiny after a report questioned the use of "double CT scans," which subjected patients to higher radiation. For some procedures, doctors scanned once using a dye once and once without at a rate higher than in other states. "The hospital launched an investigation, and physicians began to focus on curbing use of the scans. This is just what the government hopes will happen as it publishes more information on the quality of health care in the U.S., including just-released, first-of-its-kind data about medical imaging. … More than 4,600 hospitals across the U.S. submit information to the government, which posts it on a website called Hospital Compare." Data released last week showed "that Illinois hospitals provided double chest CT scans twice as often as did hospitals nationally in 2008. In most cases, a single scan is all that's necessary." But the information is controversial, because all it tracks is "how many scans an institution performed, not whether they were medically justified or were inflated by factors such as referrals from other hospitals, said Patricia Merryweather, senior vice president of the Illinois Hospital Association" (Graham, 7/11).

Florida has the same problem, according to Health News Florida: "At a handful of facilities in Florida, the data show, double scans account for two out of every three outpatient abdominal or chest CT studies. 'We'll look into the data and see what the trends are. Certainly some of these scans are unnecessary,' said Dr. Barry M. Straube, CMS' chief medical officer. ... While CMS has not precisely defined the threshold for what it considers too many combined scans, federal agencies and medical groups say they are worried about needless exposure to radiation."

"Computed tomography scans are booming -- about 70 million were performed in 2007, up from 3 million in 1980. That has led to scrutiny from several government agencies and medical groups concerned about patients' exposure to radiation. The Food and Drug Administration announced in February it was taking steps to increase regulation of all CT scans"  (Gulliver, 7/9).

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