Physicians Who Invest in Imaging Centers Refer More Patients for More Costly Services

T-HRD-93-14: Published: Apr 20, 1993. Publicly Released: Apr 20, 1993.

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GAO discussed the effect on health care utilization and costs when physicians invest in medical facilities and then refer their patients to those facilities. GAO noted that: (1) in 1990, physicians had invested in all but one of the 39 freestanding magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) centers in Florida; (2) 3,000 Florida physicians had a financial interest in a freestanding imaging center; (3) physician owners of Florida diagnostic imaging facilities had higher referral rates for all types of imaging services than nonowners; (4) differences in referral rates were higher for costlier high-technology imaging services; (5) physician owners in most specialities had higher referral rates than nonowners in the same specialty; (6) owners of MRI facilities referred their patients for MRI scans twice as often as other physicians; and (7) physician investment in medical facilities is associated with more frequent patient referral to those facilities and higher health care costs.

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