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To evaluate the impact of an emergency department (ED) automatic preauthorization policy on after-hours utilization of neuroradiology computed tomography (CT).
All CT studies of the head with contrast facial bones, orbits, spine, and neck requested through the ED and performed between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2010, were reviewed. The preauthorization policy was instituted on February 25, 2008. A control group of noncontrast CT head studies was used for comparison. Pre- and postpolicy implementation utilization rates were compared between the control group of noncontrast CT head studies and the study group neuroradiology CT studies.
During the study period, 408,501 ED patient visits occurred and 20,703 neuroradiology CT studies were carried out. The pre- and postimplementation groups of noncontrast CT head scans totalled 7,474 and 6,094, respectively, whereas the pre- and postimplementation groups of all other neuroradiology CT studies totalled 3,833 and 3,302, respectively. The CT utilization between the two groups did not differ significantly: the noncontrast head group pre- and postpolicy implementation increased by 0.31 to 3.41%, whereas the utilization of all other neuroradiology CT studies increased by 0.22 to 1.84% (p value = 0.061 for a difference between groups).
Implementation of an automatic preauthorization policy for after-hours neuroradiology CT studies did not result in a statistically significant increase in CT utilization. This suggests that concerns regarding the negative effects of such policiesmay be unfounded, and further research in this area is warranted.
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