Close to 40 million Magnetic Resonance Imaging procedures are performed annually. These MRIs enable doctors to peer deep inside the body, helping them to diagnose ailments or diseases in a non-invasive way.
But the technology may also be exploited, according to new research by Gary Young, a professor of strategic management and healthcare systems. His study shows that doctors are often pressured to prescribe unnecessary MRIs procedures in order to funnel money to hospitals—thereby escalating the costs of healthcare.
“This isn’t a gray area,” says Young, who directs Northeastern’s Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Research. “This is an area where these patients shouldn’t be referred for an MRI.”
Though MRIs are relatively harmless to the patient, Young notes that the willingness to authorize unnecessary imagings heightens concerns that other types of inappropriate procedures—including surgeries—may be referred to patients inappropriately.
At the core of the problem, says Young, is an increasing trend of physicians accepting employment with hospitals.
“The changing organization of hospitals and physicians in this country is pretty dramatic,” Young says. “Over the last decade, a very substantial percentage of physicians have moved from independent practice to hospital employment. That represents a very substantial change in the way healthcare services are organized in this country.”