AMIC: MedPAC proposed 90% equipment utilization rate is unrealistic

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The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s (MedPAC) proposal to raise the utilization rate for imaging equipment to 90 percent is unrealistic based on fundamental economic principles and from a basic medical workflow perspective, according to an analysis released yesterday by the Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC).

According to AMIC, “This extreme and arbitrary increase in the assumed utilization of advanced medical imaging equipment” from 50 percent to 90 percent would cause congestion and delays in the use of the equipment that could lead to patients postponing or canceling diagnostic imaging procedures.

The analysis was conducted by David A. Butz, PhD, of MDContent and David W. Lee, PhD, senior director, health economics and outcomes research at GE Healthcare. They found that while increasing the utilization rate may initially lower the cost per service, “a 90 percent utilization factor surpasses the tipping point at which increased utilization becomes counterproductive, increases costs and can overwhelm the system.”

"This analysis shows that a 90 percent utilization factor would likely make patients travel farther for testing and suffer longer delays in receiving necessary care. This means delays not only in being able to see a doctor, but also in the waiting room and ultimately in getting their test results - particularly in rural areas," said Tom Trysla, executive director of AMIC.  "Additionally, this unrealistic usage rate would be compounded due to the natural variation in scanning times due to patients' general health status and fragility. All of these factors could lead to serious complications in diagnosis and care, ultimately affecting healthcare outcomes and raising system costs."