Reducing Imaging Utilization in Primary Care Through Implementation of a Peer Comparison Dashboard

Abstract

Background

High clinical variation has been linked to decreased quality of care, increased costs, and decreased patient satisfaction. We present the implementation and analysis of a peer comparison intervention to reduce clinical variation within a large primary care network.

Objective

Evaluate existing variation in radiology ordering within a primary care network and determine whether peer comparison feedback reduces variation or changes practice patterns.

Design

Radiology ordering data was analyzed to evaluate baseline variation in imaging rates. A utilization dashboard was shared monthly with providers for a year, and imaging rates pre- and post-intervention were retrospectively analyzed.

Participants

Providers within the primary care network spanning 1,358,644 outpatient encounters and 159 providers over a 3-year period.

Interventions

The inclusion of radiology utilization data as part of a provider’s monthly quality and productivity dashboards. This information allows providers to compare their practice patterns with those of their colleagues.

Main Measures

We measured provider imaging rates, stratified by modality, as well as order variation over time.

Key Results

We observed significant variation in imaging rates among providers in the network, with the top decile ordering an average of 4.2 times more than the lowest decile in the two years prior to intervention. Provider experience and training were not significantly associated with imaging utilization. In the first year after sharing utilization data with providers, we saw a 17.3% decrease in median imaging rate (p < 0.001) and a 21.4% reduction in provider variation between top and bottom deciles. Median ordering rate for more costly cross-sectional imaging, including CT, MRI, and nuclear medicine studies, decreased by 30.4% (p < 0.001), 20.2% (p = 0.008), and 41.8% (p = 0.002), respectively.

Conclusions

Peer comparison feedback can shape provider imaging behavior even in the absence of targets or financial incentives. Peer comparison is a low-touch, low-cost intervention for influencing provider ordering and may have applicability in other clinical areas.

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Correspondence to David J. Halpern MD MPH.

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David J. Halpern and Adrian Clark-Randall are co-first authors.

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Halpern, D.J., Clark-Randall, A., Woodall, J. et al. Reducing Imaging Utilization in Primary Care Through Implementation of a Peer Comparison Dashboard. J GEN INTERN MED 36, 108–113 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-020-06164-8

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