Screening Mammography:

Low-Cost Services Do Not Compromise Quality

HRD-90-32: Published: Jan 10, 1990. Publicly Released: Jan 10, 1990.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the quality of screening mammography provided in different settings.

GAO found that: (1) hospitals and private radiology offices performed the majority of screening and diagnostic mammograms; (2) medical professionals established screening mammography standards, but providers did not consistently follow them, and image quality and patient radiation dose varied; (3) mammography providers complied with quality assurance standards less often than other standards; (4) mammography fees varied widely, but the average screening charge was $53 and the average diagnostic charge was $113; (5) high-volume mammography providers complied with quality assurance standards more often than low-volume providers, and higher fees did not necessarily reflect a higher degree of compliance; (6) screening mammography was less complicated and less expensive than diagnostic mammography, but many providers based their fees on the more costly diagnostic procedure, which contributed to fee variability; (7) state oversight of mammography services was inadequate; (8) although the Food and Drug Administration inspected only a small percentage of mammography equipment, it reported noncompliance with manufacturing and installation standards; and (9) the Department of Health and Human Services intended to withdraw its proposed mammography standards, since the legislation requiring the standards was repealed.

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