Predicted Cost Savings Achieved by the Radiology Support, Communication and Alignment Network from Reducing Medical Imaging Overutilization in the Medicare Population

J Am Coll Radiol. 2021 May;18(5):704-712. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2020.12.011. Epub 2021 Jan 11.


Objective: The Radiology Support, Communication and Alignment Network (R-SCAN) is a quality improvement program through which patients, referring clinicians, and radiologists collaborate to improve imaging appropriateness based on Choosing Wisely recommendations and ACR Appropriateness Criteria. R-SCAN was shown previously to increase the odds of obtaining an appropriate, higher patient or diagnostic value, imaging study. In the current study, we aimed to estimate the potential imaging cost savings associated with R-SCAN use for the Medicare population.

Material and methods: The R-SCAN data set was used to determine the proportion of appropriate and lesser value imaging studies performed, as well as the percent change in the total number of imaging studies performed, before and after an R-SCAN educational intervention. Using a separate CMS data set, we then identified the total number of relevant imaging studies and associated total costs using a 5% sample of Medicare beneficiaries in 2017. We applied R-SCAN proportions to the CMS data set to estimate the potential impact of the R-SCAN interventions across a broader Medicare population.

Results: We observed a substantial reduction in the costs associated with lesser value imaging in the R-SCAN cohort, totaling $260,000 over 3.5 months. When extrapolated to the Medicare population, the potential cost reductions associated with the decrease in lesser value imaging totaled $433 million yearly.

Conclusion: If expanded broadly, R-SCAN interventions can result in substantial savings to the Medicare program.

Keywords: Medical imaging; health care costs; medical overutilization.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Communication
  • Cost Savings
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Humans
  • Medicare*
  • Radiology*
  • United States