Family matters

For many patients, healthcare is a family affair. Several of this week’s top stories underscored some familial trials and triumphs. The high cost of family healthcare coverage dominated headlines, while reports of a lifesaving application of 3D printing hinted at the promise of the technology.

The annual healthcare costs for a family of four in the U.S. hit $22,030, according to the 2013 Milliman Medical Index (MMI). The report put healthcare costs on par with college tuition at an in-state public university. As one of the many middle-class parents grappling with both expenses, I’m not certain how much longer families might be able to sustain skyrocketing expenses in both domains.

MMI listed a few upsides. Although year-to-year cost increases continue, the rate of increase is slowing and hit a low of 6.3 percent from 2012 to 2013. That may be minimal solace for families, however, as their share of the cost increase has grown in proportion to employers’ share. What’s more, the report suggested the Affordable Care Act may not bring much relief to the typical family of four insured under a preferred provider plan.

As many families experience a painful pinch of the purse strings, one family has flourished in the promise of innovative applications of imaging. A University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, team paired CT imaging with 3D printing to craft a biomaterial splint for an infant with a life-threatening condition characterized by dynamic airway collapse and respiratory insufficiency.

Meanwhile, Australian researchers reported results of a population-based cohort study. They reviewed medical records for 10.9 million people aged 0-19 years on Jan. 1, 1985, or born between Jan. 1, 1985, and Dec. 31, 2005, and found 24 percent greater cancer incidence in people who underwent CT imaging at least one year prior to diagnosis. While applauding heightened awareness of the risks of CT imaging among radiologists and technical advances that help lower dose, the researchers called for increased utilization of decision tools and enhanced awareness of the risk-benefit balance of CT imaging.

Finally, an article in the May 28 issue of Journal of American College of Radiology detailed the need for a comprehensive, multipronged approach to an issue on the radar for many families—dose reduction.

What are the top concerns for your imaging family? How is your practice addressing them. We look forward to hearing from you. Have a terrific weekend.

Lisa Fratt, editor