Ordering of CT by Emergency Department Provider Type

Analysis of a Nationally Representative Sample

Published In: AJR, American Journal of Roentgenology, v. 199, no. 5, Nov. 2012, p. 1054-1059

Posted on RAND.org on November 01, 2012

by Christoph I. Lee, Ninez Ponce, Susan L. Ettner, Katherine L. Kahn, Lawrence W. Bassett, Howard P. Forman

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OBJECTIVE: Given the growing concern about CT overutilization, we provide a descriptive trend analysis of CT studies ordered in U.S. emergency departments by nonphysician health care providers and examine whether there is a significant difference in ordering patterns between nonphysicians and physicians. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We used a nationally representative data sample for 2001-2008 to describe trends in CT studies ordered in U.S. emergency departments by nonphysician health care providers. We performed a multivariate logistic regression with hospital fixed effects on the most recently available data to determine whether there is a difference in ordering patterns between the two provider groups. RESULTS: From 2001 to 2008, the number of emergency department visits associated with CT studies managed solely by nonphysician health care providers increased from 100,626 to 620,296. Over this same period, the proportion of emergency department visits associated with CT managed solely by nonphysician providers grew from 1.5% to 3.6%. Controlling for hospital-level and patient-level variables, patient visits managed solely by nonphysician providers had 0.38 times the odds of CT utilization compared with patient visits managed by physicians. CONCLUSION: Although both the total number and the proportion of emergency department visits managed independently by nonphysician providers and associated with CT have grown rapidly in the past decade, nonphysician health care providers are less likely to order CT compared with physicians. The types of ordering providers and their differing practices should become part of the discourse regarding appropriate CT utilization.

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