How much is that head CT? Price transparency and variability in radiology

Aaron B. Paul, Rahmi Oklu, Sanjay Saini, Anand M. Prabhakar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose To extend the investigation of price transparency and variability to medical imaging. Methods Eighteen upper-tier academic hospitals identified by U.S. News & World Report and 14 of the 100 largest private radiology practices in the country identified by the Radiology Business Journal were contacted by telephone between December 2013 and February 2014 to determine the cash price for a noncontrast head CT. The price for a noncontrast head CT was chosen to assess price transparency in medical imaging because it represents a standard imaging examination with minimal differences in quality. Results Fourteen upper-tier academic hospitals (78%) and 11 private practices (79%) were able to provide prices for a noncontrast head CT. There was no significant difference between the proportions of upper-tier academic hospitals and private practices that were able to provide prices for a noncontrast head CT (P =.96). The average total price for the upper-tier academic hospitals was $1,390.12 ± $686.13, with the price ranging from $391.62 to $2,015. The average total price for the private practices was $681.60 ± $563.58, with the total price ranging from $211 to $2,200. Conclusions Prices for a noncontrast head CT study were readily available from the vast majority of upper-tier academic hospitals and private practices, although there was tremendous variation in the price estimates both within and between the upper-tier academic hospitals and private practices. Routine medical imaging thus appears to be more price transparent compared with other health care services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)453-457
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of the American College of Radiology
Volume12
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • medical imaging
  • noncontrast head CT
  • Price transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Medicine(all)

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