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Altarum Institute nets $8.4 million CMS innovation award to curb CT, MRI use

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | July 02, 2012
A health care consulting non-profit has netted an $8.4 million "innovation grant" from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to cut MRI and CT scan volume by up to 17 percent among Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in southeast Michigan.

The catch is that the program can't result in less diagnostic accuracy, nor can it involve restrictions on ordering tests, according to CMS' description of the grant.

The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based non-profit, Altarum Institute, announced it received the award on Friday. The award is one of 107 so-called Healthcare Innovation awards doled out by CMS since May.

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Working with United Physicians, a Michigan doctors group, and the Detroit Medical Center Physician Hospital Organization, Altarum is tasked with reducing CT volume by 17.4 percent, and MRI volume by 13.4 percent, over the grant's three-year span. CMS calculates the plan, if it works, would save an estimated $33.2 million.

Evidence-based guidelines

Altarum is, in a nutshell, going for the clinical decision support approach. The group said it's going to embed evidence-based guidelines, developed by the American College of Radiology, into the image ordering process, so doctors will be more likely to only order a scan when it's actually necessary.

"In essence, this project is about empowering physicians to provide better care, by making it a little easier to decide when to order an imaging study," Dan Armijo, Altarum's vice president, said in a statement.

CMS said the program would create about 23 jobs for consultants, analysts, health education specialists and lead practice redesign experts.

The CMS Innovation Center, the awards-giving program, was created by the now-preserved Affordable Care Act, and will spend about $10 billion through 2019 to finance new service delivery models to better care and lower costs.

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