Study: Imaging modalities, consumer demand drive up healthcare costs

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The cost of healthcare continues to rise, propelled by medical imaging technologies, consumer demand and duplicative use of both new and older technologies.

 That's the conclusion from a new report from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association that also estimates that medical imaging costs in the United States could reach the $100 billion mark by 2005. The hike would represent an increase of 33 percent from approximately $75 billion in 2000.

 While he described medical imaging technology as "one the most important advancements to healthcare in the past quarter-century," Allan Korn, M.D., chief medical officer for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, said it is also "the most expensive technology. One of the critical questions before all of us in healthcare is: How do we ensure access to medical technology and keep it affordable?"

 The study also cited the development of better and less-invasive technology and consumer demand for new technology as reasons for the rise in healthcare expenses. In addition, more new procedures and machines are being added to the healthcare system, instead of replacing older procedures.

 The study also found that escalating costs and utilization of these new technologies, coupled with growth in older technologies, such as x-rays and ultrasound, suggest duplicative use.