Diagnostic Imaging's Weekly Scan: March 1, 2021, to March 5, 2021

March 5, 2021
Whitney J. Palmer

Dangers of missing one screening mammogram; Rise of cardiac CT and MRI; Strategies to improve financial stability; Plus, Talking to patient about COVID-19 vaccine-related adenopathies.

Welcome to Diagnostic Imaging’s Weekly Scan. I’m senior editor Whitney Palmer.

Before we get to our featured interview with Dr. Lynn Baxter, director of breast imaging at Radiology Partners member practice Northside Radiology Associates about how to address COVID-19 vaccine-related adenopathies with patients, here are the top stories of the week.

Missing even one screening mammogram can put a woman at significantly higher risk for dying from breast cancer. According to a study of more than half a million women published in Radiology, researchers determined that undergoing consecutive mammograms reduces a woman’s risk by half – but, skipping out makes a big difference. From 1992 to 2016, investigators followed 549,091 women in Sweden to see how frequently they underwent screening. During the study, the country’s policy was to offer screening mammography to women ages 40 to 54 every 18 months – it was every 24 months for women ages 55 to 69. The researchers divided women into four groups – those who received two consecutive screenings; those who had their last, but not next-to-last; those who had their next-to-last, but not last; and those who had none. Overall, they identified 3,995 breast cancer deaths across the groups and determined that women who had both screenings had a 49-percent lower risk for breast cancer mortality. It was only 33 percent and 28 percent for women who had only their last or next-to-last screening, respectively. This benefit stretched out for 10 years, they said, with women who underwent both screenings experiencing a 50-percent drop in breast cancer mortality within a decade of the exams.

More radiologists are providing cardiac CT and MRI services, but these studies still are not as common as echocardiography and nuclear medicine, according to a recent study from Radiology: Cardiothoracic Imaging. In a study from 2012 to 2017, investigators examined the number of cardiac CT and MRI exams performed, as well as the number of providers who conducted them. Based on their analysis, they found cardiovascular CT and MRI use rose by 97.4 percent and 75.5 percent, respectively. The number of providers also increased by 84.8 percent for MRI and 77.3 percent for CT. The majority of providers were men, and most were cardiologists or radiologists. However, while reimbursements rates for MRI and CT during the study period amounted to $16.2 million and $55.8 million, respectively, those number paled in comparison to reimbursement for echocardiography and nuclear medicine while came in at $5.9 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively.

This week, Andrew Colbert, senior managing partner and founding member of Ziegler’s Healthcare Investment Banking shared his thoughts on how radiology practices can help secure themselves financially during this turbulent healthcare environment. In his column, he discussed five factors that are directly impacting the playing field currently: federal healthcare policy changes, industry consolidations and mergers, the push to outpatient service and consumerization, the economic impact of COVID-19, and Medicare payment reallocations. In addition to laying out how each of these factors is making an impact, Colbert pointed to an analysis that could help practices identify areas of investment and fortification, and he highlighted several key types of investments that could drive success.

And, finally this week, Diagnostic Imaging spoke with Dr. Lynn Baxter, director of breast imaging at Radiology Partners member practice Northside Radiology Associates about how to address COVID-19 vaccine-related adenopathies with patients. Not only did she discuss how both technologists and radiologists should approach this information with patients, but she shared how her practice, in particular, does it. Here’s what she said.