Thursday, April 8, 2010

Timely CT and MRI Scans Lower Hospital Costs

An interesting study was just published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology. It shows that CT and MRI scans can shorten a hospital length of stay and decrease overall costs if done early enough. This could be significant since inpatient costs represent 18% of total health care insurance premiums paid, and these costs are increasing by 8% each year.

The study was conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital and included over 10,000 hospital admissions all of which had at least one advanced imaging exam. Results showed that the length of stay was significantly shorter for those patients imaged on the day before or day of admission versus those imaged on day 2 or 3 for admissions of at least 3 days.

For admissions involving abdominal CTs the length of stay was 8.4 vs. 9.7 days. For neurologic MRI exams it was 7.6 vs. 8.7 days. This translates into a savings of $2,129 per admission by reducing hospital costs. This is extremely encouraging but must also be put in the proper context. This assumes that all of the CTs and MRIs are needed in the first place.

Our experience at Compirion has shown us that a number of hospitals have issues with unnecessary testing, particularly MRIs. At one hospital after we helped them redesign how these tests were ordered, they reduced inpatient MRI utilization by 93%. This too represents a significant savings.

So the trick here is to get physicians to only order advanced imaging exams that are necessary for the particular diagnosis causing the hospitalization and to order it on or before admission day. That is asking a lot of them.

More on this later.

Mark Brodeur

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