Patients Have Limited Access to Imaging

September 17, 2014

Access to imaging, particularly MRI and some forms of CT, vary considerably across the United States.

An overall scarcity of access to imaging services exists at critical access hospitals across the United States, according to an article published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute in Reston, Virginia, and George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia undertook a study to identify the availability and scope of imaging services at critical access hospitals (CAHs) throughout the United States.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"27824","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_8244619826460","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"2756","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 96px; width: 151px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Using data from a recent American Hospital Association (AHA) annual survey, which included comprehensive information on the availability and characteristics of various services of hospitals nationwide and US census data, the researchers looked at the ease of patient accessibility to mammography, ultrasound, CT, MRI, single photon emission CT, and combined PET/CT at 1,060 CAHs in 45 states.

The researchers found that while some forms of imaging were widely available, not all were available everywhere:

 Percentage of states where imaging was available in all CAHs
Mammography13%
Ultrasound33%
Some form of CT56%
≥64-slice CT0
MRI0
Single photon emission CT0
Combined PET/CT0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The researchers concluded that there existed an overall scarcity of access to these imaging services across the country. “With 19.3 percent of the US population residing in rural areas and almost entirely dependent on CAHs for health services, the policy implications for imaging access could be profound,” they wrote. “Further research is necessary to investigate the effect of imaging access on CAH patient outcomes.”