Report: New CMS data show double CT chest scans are still common

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Cardiac CT with Somatom Definition
Image source: Siemens Healthcare

The New York Times reported June 17 that hundreds of U.S. hospitals unnecessarily conducted two CT chest scans in succession in 2009, based on the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) claims data expected to be released next month.

Despite the lack of clinical evidence for the double procedure, some hospitals were conducting two CTs more than 80 percent of the time in Medicare chest patients, according to Medicare outpatient claims from 2008. The rate is typically less than 1 percent, or in some cases zero, at large academic providers. Also, in 2008, about 75,000 patients received double scans, one using iodine contrast to check blood flow, and one that did not. Overall, Medicare paid hospitals roughly $25 million for double scans in 2008. 

Sources who have reviewed the 2009 data told The New York Times that the figures are very similar to the 2008 statistics.

CMS released the 2008 data to hospitals late last year “to show how they performed relative to each other and to encourage more efficient, safer practices,” according to The New York Times

The review of those data found more than 200 hospitals administered double scans on more than 30 percent of their Medicare outpatients—a percentage that the “agency and radiology experts considers far too high,” The New York Times reported. The 2009 national average is 5.4 percent.

The figures reportedly show wide variation among states as well, from 1 percent in Massachusetts to 13 percent in Oklahoma. Also, double CT scans are more likely to occur at smaller, community hospitals, such as Memorial Medical Center of West Michigan in Ludington, which administered two CT scans to 89 percent of its Medicare chest patients, according to The New York Times.

The figures will be released on the CMS’ Hospital Compare website.