ACR chair hopes radiologists work together to combat Anthem outpatient imaging policy

When Anthem implemented its new policy to push outpatient imaging not deemed medically necessary out of hospitals earlier this year in several states, many thought leaders within the industry spoke out in anger while others had more of a “wait and see” approach.

The American College of Radiology opposed Anthem’s decision early on, calling it “arbitrary” and “unwise” in a prepared statement. Now, in a recent editorial in the Journal of the American College of Radiology, the chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors, James A. Brink, MD, has written about the controversial policy, noting that it has created a potential rift within the industry.

“In the summer of 2017, a policy change put forth by Anthem pitted radiologists who own or work at independent imaging centers against those who work in hospital-based departments,” Brink wrote. “Although the rancor between these two groups has not escalated to the level of the Hatfields and the McCoys, the tension has been palpable.”

Brink went on to describe the anxiety he has seen among ACR members who own independent imaging facilities. Independent facilities and those managed by hospitals each have their own challenges to address in today’s healthcare landscape, he added, and he is sensitive to the needs of both sides of that coin.

Ultimately, Brink asked for specialists around the country to unite against Anthem’s policy. By working together, he said, the industry can “preserve patients’ right to choose where their imaging care is provided.”

“The ACR’s position does not favor one type of practice over another,” Brink wrote. “It is simply an effort to avoid arbitrarily steering patients to the lowest-cost provider without regard for the many other factors that may influence the choice of an imaging provider. It took the Hatfields and the McCoys decades to find a détente. I am hopeful that radiologists in independent imaging facilities may join forces with radiologists who work at hospital-based facilities to combat this deleterious policy.”