Study Finds Increased Use of Radiation Therapy When Doctors Use Their Own Machine

A new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined the use of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) that has been integrated into urology practices. Specifically, the researchers looked at how owning IMRT equipment correlated with the utilization of IMRT to treat prostate cancer. The study was based on Medicare claims from 2005 to 2010. Ownership of IMRT equipment in private practice showed an increase in the use of IMRT to treat prostate cancer by 19.2 percentage points. In practices that were part of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, there was an increase of 33 percentage points.

This study is part of a law with renewed controversy known as the Stark Law and the in-office ancillary services exception. According to the American Medical Association, the law prohibits physicians from referring patients back to their selves for items or services payable under Medicare. There are certain exceptions to the general rule, which includes the in-office ancillary services exception. Non-physician services owned by the physician or the practice are excepted, allowing the referring physician to make his own practice.

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