The Negative Impact of Stark Law Exemptions on Graduate Medical Education and Health Care Costs: The Example of Radiation Oncology
Anscher, Mitchell S.
Anscher, Barbara M.
Bradley, Cathy J.
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics 2010 April; 76(5): 1289-1294
PURPOSE: To survey radiation oncology training programs to determine the impact of ownership of radiation oncology facilities by non-radiation oncologists on these training programs and to place these findings in a health policy context based on data from the literature. METHODS AND MATERIALS: A survey was designed and e-mailed to directors of all 81 U.S. radiation oncology training programs in this country. Also, the medical and health economic literature was reviewed to determine the impact that ownership of radiation oncology facilities by non-radiation oncologists may have on patient care and health care costs. Prostate cancer treatment is used to illustrate the primary findings. RESULTS: Seventy-three percent of the surveyed programs responded. Ownership of radiation oncology facilities by non-radiation oncologists is a widespread phenomenon. More than 50% of survey respondents reported the existence of these arrangements in their communities, with a resultant reduction in patient volumes 87% of the time. Twenty-seven percent of programs in communities with these business arrangements reported a negative impact on residency training as a result of decreased referrals to their centers. Furthermore, the literature suggests that ownership of radiation oncology facilities by non-radiation oncologists is associated with both increased utilization and increased costs but is not associated with increased access to services in traditionally underserved areas. CONCLUSIONS: Ownership of radiation oncology facilities by non-radiation oncologists appears to have a negative impact on residency training by shifting patients away from training programs and into community practices. In addition, the literature supports the conclusion that self-referral results in overutilization of expensive services without benefit to patients. As a result of these findings, recommendations are made to study further how physician ownership of radiation oncology facilities influence graduate medical education, treatment patterns and utilization, and health care costs. Patients also need to be aware of financial arrangements that may influence their physician's treatment recommendations.
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