Study Shows ERs Overuse Medical Imaging

Written by Ronny Bachrach on September 30, 2015. Posted in Digital Radiography and PACS, DR, Hardware

Physicians use diagnostic imaging for many reasons, including checking for broken bones, examining tissue and organs and looking for internal bleeding. They use imaging equipment more often than not while working in the emergency department. However, a recent study showed that much of that medical imaging is unnecessary.

Overuse of digital imaging in many EDs
In a study published in the Journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, researchers from various California hospitals found that 97 percent of responding doctors ordered unnecessary medical imaging. Despite calling for testing themselves, more than 85 percent of these physicians thought their ERs performed too many scans.

This misuse of scanning equipment contributes $210 billion per year to medical imaging spending, according to HealthDay. While diagnostic radiology can be useful in some instances, many times its usage in ERs leads to false positives and further unnecessary testing. Calling for needless scans is the second-most costly decision an ER doctor can make, right behind the one to admit patients, Jay Kaplan, M.D., the president-elect for the American College of Emergency Physicians, explained to the source.

"I think it is a widespread concern," Kaplan said. "It is one reason why physicians in general and emergency physicians specifically have lobbied for medical liability reform."

Reasons for extensive testing
There are many reasons for unnecessary imaging scans, according to the study. The doctors' fear of missing a diagnosis tops the list at 68.9 percent with the anxiety over malpractice suits not far behind at 64.3 percent. Patient demand also called for needless testing.

"We do not like uncertainty, and so we are driven by this culture that says if there is any doubt, we should do the test, and we do not acknowledge the potential harms of this approach," Hemal Kanzaria, M.D., the study's lead author and emergency physician at the University of California, Los Angeles, told HealthDay.

However, there are methods to lessen the amount of needless imaging. Approximately 79 percent of doctors in the study reported malpractice reform as a main solution to useless medical procedures. Nearly 70 percent of respondents believed educating patients was the key, while 50 percent thought physicians could increase their knowledge on the subject. Shared decision-making is also believed to help decrease the use of diagnostic imaging in the ER by 55 percent of doctors.

While medical imaging is useful for many diagnoses, it is not always required. By treating the symptoms patients present, emergency room doctors will be able to avoid unnecessary costs.

Contact Viztek for more information.

Ronny Bachrach

Ronny Bachrach

Marketing Director at Viztek LLC
Responsible for all marketing activities including, press, advertising, trade show coordination, website management, dealer and customer communications.
Ronny Bachrach
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