The findings could shed light on how to proceed as the pandemic unfolds, according to a team led by Dr. Richard Duszak, Jr, of Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
"Decline patterns could facilitate pandemic second wave planning," the group wrote. "Overall implications for practice workflows, practice finances, patient access, and payment policy are manifold."
The team sought to assess declines in community practice diagnostic imaging due to the pandemic. The study included data from nine radiology practices across the U.S., taken between January 2019 and May 2020. Duszak and colleagues tracked work relative value unit (wRVU) noninvasive diagnostic imaging service codes by modality and body region, analyzing them in weekly aggregates.
The team found that aggregate weekly wRVUs hit a nadir over the study timeframe in April, at 55,188, with outpatient declines rating the highest percentage, at 66%. The authors also found the following declines in the percentage of total all-practice wRVUs by modality and body region over the study timeframe:
- CT: 31%
- Radiography/fluoroscopy: 30%
- Abdomen/pelvis: 25%
- Breast: 19%
The group also discovered that when it came to the largest shares of total all-practice wRVU decreases, mammography and abdominal/pelvic CT were highest (17% and 14%, respectively). But mammography got hit hardest across modality and region groups, with a decline of 92%.
"Substantial COVID-19 related diagnostic imaging work declines were similar across community practices and disproportionately impacted mammography," the group concluded.
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