Study identifies trends in self-referred imaging

to evaluate geographic and demographic distribution, type of center and services available, cost and procedures for reporting results.

"This study was really a first step in a larger research program. Our first goal was to understand where these centers are," Dr. Illes said. "The subsequent steps will help us to better understand what motivates people to pursue self-referred imaging, the impact it has on lifestyle choices and on the patient-physician relationship, and the downstream costs to the healthcare system overall."

The researchers specifically found that the largest concentration (34 percent) of self-referral imaging centers was in California, mainly in the southern region of the state, and in New York (15 percent). A full-body scan ranged from $795 to $995. A full-body scan including the head averaged $850, while a full-body scan including a bone density test averaged $1,215. Slightly more than half (51 percent) of the centers that offered neck-to-pelvis full-body scans offered the scans exclusively to the self-referred screening market. Only 30% of the centers that offer the full-body scans were standard radiology offices or departments. The method of reporting results varied considerably from center to center.

The authors recommend rigorous study of self-referred imaging prior to broad adaptation to protect healthcare consumers from unregulated repeat exams, unexpected health consequences from invasive follow-up and unwarranted healthcare expenditures beyond the initially expected out-of-pocket expense. The researchers believe that healthcare consumers need to be better educated about screening limitations and the expected occurrence of false-positive results. "Even with the services already in place, it is important that radiologists continue to debate the ethics of this new innovation in healthcare," Dr. Illes said. She also believes it is imperative that radiologists develop a set of professional guidelines to which the indus

Contact: Maureen Morley
Radiological Society of North America

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