Australian Govt should allow GPs to order MRI scans for patients

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has written to Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, urging her to implement the previous Government’s policy to allow GPs to order Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans for their patients. Prior to last year’s election, it was announced that GPs would be able to directly refer patients for a Medicare-funded MRI scan of the knee or, where Multiple Sclerosis is suspected, of the brain.

Australian Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) recently advised that the incoming Government has put the GP MRI initiative, which was scheduled to take effect from 1_January 2008, on hold pending a review.

AMA President, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, said allowing GPs to directly order MRI scans would greatly benefit patients. “It would provide patients with quicker access to the most appropriate treatment for their condition,” Dr Capolingua said.

“In many instances it may save the patient needing to wait for a specialist appointment. For patients living in areas where access to specialists is more difficult, often rural areas, the benefits are even greater. Once this policy is implemented, the AMA believes it should be extended to allow direct GP referrals for MRI scans covering a broader range of medical conditions. MRI is a proven and effective diagnostic tool that is cost effective and widely supported by the medical profession. It is important that patients are allowed easier access to MRIs through their GP.”

Dr Capolingua said that the Government should also address the problem that many licensed MRI machines ? those that are currently recognised by Medicare ? are at or near capacity, causing delays for patients seeking scans.

“To ensure that patients have timely access to an MRI scan, the Government should allow MRI machines that are not currently recognised by Medicare to be licensed, provided they meet acceptable clinical standards,” Dr Capolingua said.

AMA-commissioned research by the University of Sydney shows that allowing GPs to directly order MRI scans for patients would save the Government up to $42 million a year.

Source: Australian Medical Association, Australia

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