Clarifying the relationship between nonradiologists' financial interest in imaging and their utilization of imaging

Mythreyi Bhargavan, Jonathan H. Sunshine, Danny R. Hughes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. Several limitations and deficiencies have been identified in existing studies of physician financial interest in imaging that show financial interest is associated with more imaging. We conducted extensive quantitative analysis of seven deficiencies that have been identified. MATERIALS AND METHODS. Using Symmetry's Episode Grouper, we created episodes of care from all the 2004-2007 health care claims for a random 5% sample of Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries. We compared utilization of imaging in nonhospital episodes having a nonradiologist physician who had a financial interest in imaging with utilization in episodes with no such physician. We studied 23 combinations of medical conditions with imaging modalities commonly used for these conditions. RESULTS. Across four different definitions of financial interest and the 23 combinations, the relative probability (risk ratio) of imaging was uniformly higher for episodes of physicians with a financial interest, predominantly at p < 0.001. The mean relative probability was 1.87. This mean was little affected by the definition of financial interest used or the definition of the physician deemed responsible for the imaging. Controlling for patient characteristics, illness severity, and physician specialty likewise had little effect. Physicians who had acquired a financial interest averaged a 49% increase in the odds of imaging relative to physicians who had not. Physicians with a financial interest in an imaging modality used other modalities more than did physicians without a financial interest in the index modality. The Deficit Reduction Act's 2007 payment reductions had little effect. CONCLUSION. A financial interest in imaging is associated with higher utilization, probably causally. Limiting nonradiologists' financial interest in imaging may be desirable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)W891-W899
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Financial interest
  • Health economics
  • Imaging
  • Self-referral
  • Utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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