The Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Magnetic Resonance Laboratories (ICAMRL) has expanded its program to include accreditation for body, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and neurologic imaging. The revised accreditation process, which went into effect Nov. 1, was instituted because of widespread interest from neurologists, cardiologists, orthopedic surgeons, radiologists, and others. “It is crucial to the future of this imaging modality that all specialties have access to a fair and equitable accreditation program that enables them to receive peer review of their work and to document to insurers that they are providing quality magnetic resonance studies consistent with established clinical guidelines,” ICAMRL President Edward T. Martin, M.D., said in a statement. Labs can apply in any or all of the specialty areas.
Cream Skimming Continues
Specialty hospitals are under scrutiny once again. A study found that Arizona heart physicians who partly owned cardiac specialty hospitals were more likely than were physicians with no ownership stake to treat low-acuity, high-profit cases in their own facilities and to refer the more complex, lower-profit cases to community hospitals. Jean Mitchell, Ph.D., a professor of public policy at Georgetown University, Washington, analyzed 6 years of inpatient discharge data to compare the practice patterns of physicians who were owners of cardiac specialty hospitals in Phoenix and Tucson with those of physicians who only treated patients in full-service community hospitals with an accredited cardiac care program. She found that physician-owners treated higher percentages of patients with Medicare fee-for-service or commercial PPOs, and lower percentages of patients enrolled in Medicaid and HMOs. The American Medical Association endorses the existence of such hospitals, although the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has reinstituted a freeze on the approval of new specialty hospitals until it completes a review next year. The study appeared as a Health Affairs Web-exclusive article.
HHS Mulls Investigation
The Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General is looking into the circumstances surrounding the resignation of former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Lester M. Crawford, D.V.M., Ph.D., to determine if an investigation should be opened, an OIG spokeswoman said. In a response to a query from Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), HHS Inspector General Daniel R. Levinson said that the OIG is doing an initial review of the facts, not an investigation in any regulatory sense, according to the spokeswoman. “Dr. Crawford's departure, a mere 2 months after confirmation to his position, raises significant questions,” Rep. Hinchey and several fellow members of Congress wrote in their request. Dr. Crawford had resigned his position after a 30-year career with the agency, serving as its deputy commissioner and director of the Center for Veterinary Medicine, among other posts.
Unproven Health Claims
The Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to 29 companies for making unproven claims that their products treat or prevent disease. The letters when out to companies that manufacture, market, or distribute products made from cherries and other fruits. The companies made a range of claims about diseases including heart disease, arthritis, and cancer. Under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, products intended for use in the “diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease” are considered drugs and must be approved for safety and effectiveness by the FDA.