A few days ago, the Star Tribune reported on plans for still another diagnostic imaging center in a Minneapolis suburb that has more MRI machines than in many entire countries. Excerpt:
Along a two-mile stretch of France Avenue in Edina, medical providers have installed so many powerful magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners that radiologists joke that anyone driving through with a pacemaker should beware.
Come September, there'll be a new one. ...
Its opening is likely to reignite a debate on whether Minnesota has too many diagnostic imaging facilities, encouraging doctors to order unnecessary procedures and pushing up medical costs. It's also likely to raise the ethically thorny question of whether doctors should refer patients to a facility in which they have a financial stake.
"Imaging has been an area of concern for a long time," said Julie Sonier, director of the Minnesota Department of Health's health economics program, which does reviews of major medical investments. "Issues about the concentration in Edina have also been a concern for some time."
A 2007 Health Department report said there was anecdotal evidence in Minnesota that physician investments in facilities led to financial conflicts of interest and overuse.
Among the reader responses are these:
• As a patient, how do you know that you really need a test that may be uncomfortable, that might have some risk associated, that might have radiation exposure associated, and that you might have to pay for when you know that the person telling you you need it stands to make up to $1000 just for suggesting it? The answer is you can't. This practice is a pox on medicine.
• There are as many MRI scanners in the Twin Cities as in all of Canada. Is the health of Canadians compromised by fewer imaging studies? Obviously not. There is no relationship between the number of tests and procedures performed in medical care and the health outcomes of the patients. More medical care is not better care. The Health Department should carefully examine the merits of this expansion of imaging services.