Author + information
- Received May 30, 2006
- Revision received February 2, 2007
- Accepted February 5, 2007
- Published online June 12, 2007.
- Alan S. Pearlman, MD, FACC⁎,⁎ (, )
- Thomas Ryan, MD, FACC†,
- Michael H. Picard, MD, FACC‡ and
- Pamela S. Douglas, MD, MACC†,a
- ↵⁎Reprint requests and correspondence:
Dr. Alan S. Pearlman, Division of Cardiology, Box 356422, University of Washington School of Medicine, 1959 NE Pacific Street, Seattle, Washington 98195.
Objectives We studied the use of echocardiography among Medicare beneficiaries between 1999 and 2004 to determine the rate of growth in these services and evaluate the drivers of growth.
Background Concerned about increasing health care costs, federal and private payers have highlighted growth in diagnostic imaging studies and begun to develop approaches to curb this growth.
Methods Medicare Part B Physician/Supplier Procedure Summary Master File and enrollment data from 1999 to 2004 were reviewed. Total Medicare carrier-paid spending for echocardiography services was determined from procedure volumes and allowed charges. The 5% standard analytic file of physician claims was used to evaluate geographic variations in use and to document the specialties of physicians who request and those who interpret echocardiograms.
Results Between 1999 and 2004, echocardiography services grew at a rate similar to that for all medical services subject to Medicare’s sustainable growth rate (SGR) calculation. Increasing provision of echocardiograms in physicians’ offices contributed to increased spending under the SGR. Accounting for this shift, actual annualized per capita growth in echocardiography was 7.7%. Variations in the prevalence of heart disease contributed to geographic variations in use. Although cardiologists were the most common providers of echocardiographic services, primary care physicians ordered the majority of these diagnostic procedures.
Conclusions Growth in the use of echocardiography is in keeping with the general growth in medical services. Nonetheless, physicians who order echocardiograms and those who provide them must work together to ensure that in the future these diagnostic services are used appropriately and not excessively.
↵a Dr. Douglas serves as a consultant to GE Healthcare.
A grant from the American Society of Echocardiography supported some of the costs of data collection and analysis.
- Received May 30, 2006.
- Revision received February 2, 2007.
- Accepted February 5, 2007.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation