Computed Tomography Scanners:

Opportunity for Coordinated Federal Planning Before Substantial Acquisitions

HRD-78-41: Published: Jan 30, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1978.

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Computed tomography scanning is a new diagnostic technique using X-rays. It is of little risk to patients, causes minimal discomfort compared to other diagnostic procedures, and eliminates some shortcomings of conventional X-ray methods. Scanners cost from $300,000 to $700,000 each; operation and maintenance expenses are estimated at several hundred thousand dollars a year. As many as 2,500 scanners may be operating in the United States by 1980. In an effort to control the acquisition of scanners, some States have imposed moratoria on their purchases. Criteria for planning and using scanners are limited.

The Federal Government has 16 scanners in operation and plans to purchase an additional 29--16 for the Department of Defense (DOD) and 13 for the Veterans Administration (VA). These 45 scanners will cost about $21 million. VA has 11 scanners in operation, and DOD is installing scanners at three of its major hospitals. Only limited criteria and information were available to justify the need for or locations of these scanners. No coordination took place between VA and DOD in planning for these scanners, and neither department made sure that there will be enough people to operate the scanners as planned. Delays are anticipated in getting staff or authorization for the positions. It will be difficult to fully use the equipment, and staff relocations from other hospitals will be necessary for operation of the scanners. The Federal Government has purchased only a limited number of scanners; excess acquisition has not yet occurred. However, because of the large number that DOD and VA plan to acquire over the next few years, criteria should be developed quickly or the Federal health care system may have too many.

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