A new study by the Nieman Institute published in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that advanced practice clinicians such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants are 34% more likely to prescribe an imaging procedure for established patients than a primary care physician.

“There was little difference in image ordering for new patients. However, established patients were considerably more likely to receive imaging if seen by an advanced practice clinician. This may increase in importance as these providers care for more patients in new health care delivery models,” said Danny R. Hughes, PhD, research director and senior research fellow of the Neiman Institute.

Under the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, all providers must consult clinical decision support tools before ordering advanced imaging procedures for Medicare patients beginning January 1, 2017. The law could help narrow this disparity going forward.

“Clinical decision support use significantly reduces inappropriate imaging use and its associated costs,” said Richard Duszak, MD, chief medical officer and senior research fellow of the Neiman Institute. “Our study suggests that advanced practice clinicians may particularly benefit from these ordering systems, which also educate providers on which exams are best for a patient’s condition.”

The Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute conducts research on medical imaging news to inform evidence-based policy. For more information, visit the Neiman Institute.