Purpose: The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) regards billing for radiologic examinations without an appropriate indication as unlawful, and both the referring physician and the radiologist are liable. HCFA regulations are interpreted as requiring that all requisitions for radiologic examinations include a current diagnosis and appropriate indication for the study. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the rates at which requisitions currently meet these criteria and to assess the effectiveness of a simple intervention designed to improve them.
Materials and methods: One hundred fifty consecutive chest radiography requisitions were examined to determine the rate at which current diagnoses and appropriate indications were present. An intervention was then implemented that included a month-long effort to inform referring physicians and radiologists of HCFA regulations, followed by a 1-week period during which requested examinations were not performed unless accompanied by a clinical diagnosis and appropriate indication. Another 150 consecutive chest radiography requisitions were then assessed to determine the effect of the intervention. A 3-month follow-up sample of a third set of 150 consecutive requisitions was then obtained.
Results: The intervention produced a 69% decrease in the rate at which current diagnoses were missing from requisitions, and a 61% decrease in the corresponding rate for appropriate indications. Both results are significant with chi2 analysis at the P = .001 level. After 3 months with no additional intervention, rates decayed back toward baseline, with only a 35% remaining decrease for current diagnosis and an 18% decrease for appropriate indication.
Conclusion: The intervention performed in this study significantly reduces the rate of noncompliance with HCFA regulations. However, this improvement decays over time if it is not reinforced.