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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

RANZCR calls for patient-centric reform in radiology services

Health Industry Hub | March 21, 2024 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: The Royal College of Australian and New Zealand Radiologists (RANZCR) has called for further reform in how Australians access radiology services.

The Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) licensing system, which was dismantled by the Federal Government in 2022 for patients in remote and rural areas, granted unrestricted access to Medicare-funded scans for 30% of the population. However, in metropolitan Australia, the system persists, mandating patients to be eligible for a Medicare rebate only if the MRI machine used is licensed.

This disparity has led to what RANZCR President Professor John Slavotinek described as an “unbalanced situation” with patients in metropolitan regions facing exorbitant out-of-pocket costs, prolonged delays in accessing licensed MRI machines, or opting out of crucial imaging procedures altogether, jeopardising their health.

Professor Slavotinek emphasised, “The College applauded the previous reforms which removed the licensing system on MRI machines in remote and rural locations. Nevertheless, there are still too many patients who are unable to easily access a Medicare rebate for undergoing an MRI scan and are left risking their health if they don’t have time to wait or the money to pay.”

Restricting access to MRI services has a profoundly adverse impact on patients, particularly younger people and those diagnosed with cancer or the immunosuppressed. There is currently a failure to implement best clinical practice use of MRI services which is resulting in an overreliance on CT scans which exposes patients to unnecessary ionising radiation, which may increase the patient’s risk of developing cancer.

Calling on the Federal Government to address these discrepancies, Professor Slavotinek urged for the abolition of the MRI licensing system for metropolitan patients in the upcoming 2024-2025 Budget, advocating for the deregulation of all MRI machines across Australia.

He stated, “It is time for the Federal Government to take the next inevitable step by ending this unbalanced situation for metropolitan patients. The removal of the licensing system would result in a minimal impact on service volume with MRI services restricted for the most part to medical specialists rather than referral by general practitioners. More importantly, it would improve equitable clinical outcomes for all Australians. MRI scans provide superior diagnostic information for disease detection, diagnosis, and treatment monitoring, including detecting cancer.”

Additionally, the College has requested further funding for its Regional and Rural Training Pathway scheme and additional support for brachytherapy services to ensure comprehensive healthcare access across all regions of Australia.

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