Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine growth trends in ownership or leasing of private-office PET scanners by nonradiologist physicians.
Materials and methods: The Medicare Part B Physician/Supplier Procedure Summary Master Files for 2002 through 2007 were used to collect the following data for each PET-related Current Procedural Terminology((R)) code: 1) annual procedure volume, 2) places of service for the procedures, and 3) specialties of the physicians filing the claims. To determine ownership or leasing, only technical and global claims that occurred in the nonhospital, private-office setting were included in the study. Professional component-only claims were not included. Procedure volume and growth trends were compared between radiologists and other specialties.
Results: Between 2002 and 2007, radiologist-owned Medicare PET scans increased by 259%, whereas nonradiologist-owned or nonradiologist-leased scans grew by 737%. Five specialty groups accounted for 95% of all nonradiologist PET volume in 2007: internal medicine subspecialties (28,324 studies in 2007), medical oncology (14,320 studies), cardiology (13,724 studies), radiation oncology (9,563 studies), and primary care (2,398 studies). In 2002, of all Medicare PET examinations performed on units owned or leased by physicians, the share for nonradiologists was 13%; their share rose to 24% in 2007.
Conclusion: Although a large percentage of PET scans in private offices are done by radiologists, the growth rate among nonradiologists was far higher between 2002 and 2007 (259% for the former, 737% for the latter). The disproportionately rapid growth of PET scans performed on units owned by nonradiologists raises concern about self-referral at a time when policymakers are struggling to contain costs and reduce radiation exposure.