Variation in ED imaging rates not dependent on physician training

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted July 1, 2013

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Varying utilization of emergency department imaging by physicians has little to do with a doctor’s experience, training or gender, according to a study published online June 25 in Radiology.

Previous research showed substantial variation in imaging rates in emergency departments, suggesting different tendencies among physicians when ordering imaging.

In the Radiology study, authors analyzed 88,851 ED visits during 2011 at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The overall rate of imaging utilization by doctors in the Massachusetts General ED was 45% in 2011 (link).

Analysis of the data revealed that physician-related factors such as gender, experience and training did not correlate with imaging use. Instead, patient and visit factors were the predominant predictors of the likelihood of imaging for a given visit. Such factors included prior visits, referral sources, arrival modes and clinical reasons for the visit.

Workload was another significant factor in imaging use, the study showed. A busier emergency department resulted in a tendency toward more high-cost imaging.

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