Health Department to target unnecessary diagnostic imaging requests

24 Oct 2019

The latest issue of the AMA’s member magazine, Australian Medicine, is out now. Dr Richard Kidd, Chair of the AMA Council of General Practice, discusses recent action from the Department of Health requesting that GPs reduce diagnostic imaging requests.

Dr Kidd outlines that the Department will send letters to the top 20 per cent of diagnostic requesting GPs asking them to reduce diagnostic imaging testing that may cause unintended harms including overdiagnosis, overtreatment, and unnecessary exposure of patient to ionising radiation. This is in line with recent work published in the Medical Journal of Australia that found a majority of lower back pain imaging and specialist referrals are unwarranted.

Dr Kidd said that the AMA is pleased to see that the Department appears to be taking more of a nuanced and nudge approach, hopefully achieving a better educated, more constructive response from recipients and the profession than happened with the opioid letter.

“The Department is looking at how it presents information to GPs to best inform them about their diagnostic imaging referrals and to highlight how they differ from their peers and in what specific areas," Dr Kidd said.

“The Department also looking into its follow-up approach and what tools may be of assistance to GPs and their patients regarding when and for what conditions imaging is appropriate.”

Dr Kidd has assured that the AMA will closely watch the impact of the Department’s actions, as there may be unintended consequences for GPs with special interests in sports and musculoskeletal medicine. The AMA does not want to see patients denied referrals where their presenting condition indicates it is the appropriate course of action. This would adversely impact patient outcomes and increase the costs associated with delayed diagnosis and treatment.

Read Dr Kidd’s full article here.

Read the latest issue of Australian Medicine here.