Curr Probl Diagn Radiol 2020 Jan - Feb;49(1):17-22. Epub 2018 Nov 2.
Department of Radiology, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.; Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.
Introduction: Nonradiologist providers increasingly perform diagnostic imaging examinations and imaging-guided interventions traditionally performed by radiologists, which have raised concerns regarding appropriate utilization and self-referral. The purpose of this study was to assess the contribution of imaging studies to Medicare reimbursements for highly compensated nonradiologist providers in specialties often performing imaging studies.
Methods: The Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Database was queried for provider information regarding overall reimbursement for providers in anesthesiology, cardiology, emergency medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedic surgery, neurology, and vascular surgery. Information regarding imaging studies reported and payment amounts were extracted for the 25 highest-reimbursed providers. Data were analyzed for relative contribution of imaging payments to overall medical Medicare payments.
Results: Significant differences between numbers of imaging studies, types of imaging, and payment amounts were noted based on provider specialty (p < 0.001). Highest-reimbursed cardiologists received the greatest percentage of Medicare payments from imaging (18.3%) followed by vascular surgery (11.6%), obstetrics and gynecology (10.9%), orthopedic surgery (9.6%), emergency medicine (8.7%), neurology (7.8%), and anesthesiology (3.2%) providers. Mean imaging payments amongst highly reimbursed nonradiologists were greatest for cardiology ($578,265), vascular surgery ($363,912), and orthopedic surgery ($113,634). Amongst highly reimbursed specialists, most common nonradiologist imaging payments were from ultrasound (45%) and cardiac nuclear medicine studies (40%).
Conclusions: Nonradiologist performed imaging payments comprised substantial proportions of overall Medicare reimbursement for highly reimbursed physicians in several specialties, especially cardiology, vascular surgery, and orthopedic surgery. Further investigation is needed to better understand the wider economic implications of nonradiologist imaging study performance and self-referral beyond the Medicare population.