Press Release

Embargoed Until Contact

July 25, 2012

Sue Ducat
Director of Communications
(301) 841-9962


From Health Affairs


New Study Finds Sharp Slowdown In Imaging Use After 2005


Bethesda, MD -- Demand for new radiologists, one of the most sought-after specialists, began declining in 2007 because of a lessening increase in demand for imaging studies. According to a new study in Health Affairs, the growth in the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) for patients in the United States slowed to between 1 and 3 percent per year between 2006 and 2009, ending a decade of growth that had exceeded 6 percent annually. This study, which analyzes potential reasons for this change in imaging use, was released today as a Web First; it will also appear in the journal’s August issue.


The Sharp Slowdown In Growth Of Medical Imaging: An Early Analysis Suggests Combination Of Policies Was The Cause

By David W. Lee and Frank Levy

Lee heads health economics and reimbursement at GE Healthcare; Levy is a professor of urban economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School.

Levy’s work is supported by a Robert Wood Johnson Investigator Award.


To analyze the trends in utilization the authors examined claims data for both the Medicare and non-Medicare patients from 2000 to 2009. For the Medicare population, use of CT grew at an annual rate of 14.3 percent from 2000 to 2005; the growth rate began declining each year after 2005, to the lowest increase of 1.4 percent in 2009. MRI use in Medicare slowed from 14 percent annual growth between 2000 and 2005 to an average of 2.6 percent during 2006-09. Among the commercially-insured nonelderly population there was similar utilization slowdowns detailed in the study.


The authors cited several policies that contributed to the slowdown. “We hypothesize that higher cost sharing, prior authorization, reduced reimbursements, and fear of radiation are, for different parts of the population, countering some of the nonmedical incentives to order an imaging study,” concluded the authors. “What has occurred in the imaging field suggests incentive-based cost control measures can be a useful complement to comparative effectiveness research when a procedure’s ultimate clinical benefit is uncertain.”

About Health Affairs

Health Affairs is the leading journal at the intersection of health, health care, and policy. Published by Project HOPE, the peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published periodically and health policy briefs published twice monthly at You can also find the journal on Facebook and Twitter. Read daily perspectives on Health Affairs Blog. Download weekly Narrative Matters podcasts on iTunes.

The full text of each Health Affairs Web First paper is available free of charge to all Web-site visitors for a two-week period following posting, after which it switches to pay-per-view for nonsubscribers. Web First papers are supported in part by a grant from The Commonwealth Fund.