MITA Seeking Relief From the Government for Diagnostic Imaging Due to Pandemic

MITA Writes a Letter to CMS with Recommendations on Post-Pandemic Services Resumption

MITA (Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance) sent a letter to CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) recently. This letter was sent as a recommendation to the federal agency of CMS, asking them to do something to strengthen the field of medical imaging in the wake of Covid 19 pandemic. The letter was written on May 14, 2020, addressed to Ms. Seema Verma, the Administrator of CMS, and undersigned by Patrick Hope, the Executive Director of MITA.

According to Patrick Hope, imaging exams are not being conducted sufficiently to diagnose and treat the medical conditions of patients. Under the current times of crisis, policies need to be made and implemented to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic on people’s health. As per recent figures gathered by Quinsite, daily volumes of imaging procedures have reduced by as much as 50%, and specialities like mammography have dived even deeper by 79%. New England Journal of Medicine has reported a similar dip of 40% in the field of stroke imaging.

In the letter, MITA has suggested some methods to control infection, reduce requirements of prior authorization, and communicate in a better way so that patients do not skip going for imaging exams. Some of the suggested methods include:

Taking steps to mitigate the aftermath of Covid 19 pandemic: During the pandemic situation, patients were asked to hold their non-emergency medical screening and evaluation procedures. But when the time to resume the services arrives, it is important to modify the way tools, supplies and equipment are used. Cleaning and sanitization of the room and equipment will be expected, and healthcare personnel will have to make regular use of PPE. Therefore, setting rates of imaging procedures in the future should be done while keeping all these expenses in mind.

Taking steps to mitigate consequences on people’s health after the pandemic: Since many patients could not receive screening and imaging during the pandemic, they may have drastic consequences on patients who actually needed it. Several patients who went for regular annual screening could not go for it now, due to which many patients who needed diagnosis and treatment did not receive it in time. So, cases should be prioritized as per their nature of the emergency, but at the same time, imaging services should not be over-burdened.

Suspending or postponing policies that compound the pandemic aftermath: Healthcare sector will take time to recover from the pandemic aftereffects, both in terms of finances and innovation. While the industry is still in its phase of recovery, new policies should not be implemented, which may result in unnecessary burdens and payment cuts on the administration. With a strong recovery plan, the industry will be able to handle more beneficiaries and promote their health. Once recovered, radiology facilities will be able to embrace new technologies of medical imaging in a much better way, such as new scanners, AI platforms and novel radiotracers.

In another letter addressed to the US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, MITA has also outlined some measures to get ready for other pandemics in the future. Here are a few of them:

• In order to prepare for the increased demand for imaging technologies, Strategic National Stockpile should include imaging equipment, so that in times of any future pandemic, the healthcare system can effectively handle the escalated demand.
• Prioritizing cases should be reviewed so that patients who need imaging procedures can be granted access. Medical imaging equipment should be used strategically so that a balance between emergency and diagnosis procedures can be successfully maintained.
• Steps should be taken to compensate for the imaging procedures that had to be delayed due to increased demand during the Covid 19 pandemic. Since a lot of cases went neglected due to lack of diagnosis, patients will now have to bear dire consequences both physically, mentally and financially. Therefore, for future pandemics, resources should be directed skillfully, so that better decisions can be made regarding prioritizing procedures.
• More funding should be offered to the research sector so that imaging efficacy can be streamlined and any future crisis can be addressed in a much better way than the present one.

According to Patrick Hope, extreme steps may be required to prepare for a future crisis, and MITA is ready to take them for their country. American College of Radiology estimated that such policy changes may cost $770 million to the imaging sector in the first year, and around $10 billion in the coming decade. Since the healthcare industry is getting ready to resume their services, these recommendations may prove to be helpful in normalizing the procedures and getting the industry back on track.

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