In the United States, the use of diagnostic imaging has increased twofold since the mid-1990s. This has given rise to fears that exposure to radiation from technologies like computed tomography (CT) scans may increase a person’s lifetime cancer risk, according to researchers. Earlier research had shown rising usage of imaging in patients in the government’s Medicare insurance program for the elderly. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows use of imaging technologies rising by about the same amount in health maintenance organizations (HMOs) in the private sector, emphasizing the anxiety over radiation exposure.
Diagnostic imaging is a procedure in which the doctor examines inside a patient’s body without the use of a scalpel, minimizing the need for probing surgery. CT scans can be utilized to diagnose tumors and internal injuries, and many other internal problems. Previous studies of people in Medicare Plan hold that increasing use of CT scans and other technologies are partly owing to fee-for-service payment models which provide incentive to doctors for ordering the costly tests.
The new study further holds that that even in HMOs, where doctors are usually paid a salary or fixed rates and have little added incentive to order imaging tests, rates of imaging doubled between 1996 and 2010.
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