Interventions to reduce low-value imaging – a systematic review of interventions and outcomes
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Background It is estimated that 20–50% of all radiological examinations are of low value. Many attempts have been made to reduce the use of low-value imaging. However, the comparative effectiveness of interventions to reduce low-value imaging is unclear. Thus, the objective of this systematic review was to provide an overview and evaluate the outcomes of interventions aimed at reducing low-value imaging. Methods An electronic database search was completed in Medline – Ovid, Embase-Ovid, Scopus, and Cochrane Library for citations between 2010 and 2020. The search was built from medical subject headings for Diagnostic imaging/Radiology, Health service misuse or medical overuse, and Health planning. Keywords were used for the concept of reduction and avoidance. Reference lists of included articles were also hand-searched for relevant citations. Only articles written in English, German, Danish, Norwegian, Dutch, and Swedish were included. The Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool was used to appraise the quality of the included articles. A narrative synthesis of the final included articles was completed. Results The search identified 15,659 records. After abstract and full-text screening, 95 studies of varying quality were included in the final analysis, containing 45 studies found through hand-searching techniques. Both controlled and uncontrolled before-and-after studies, time series, chart reviews, and cohort studies were included. Most interventions were aimed at referring physicians. Clinical practice guidelines (n = 28) and education (n = 28) were most commonly evaluated interventions, either alone or in combination with other components. Multi-component interventions were often more effective than single-component interventions showing a reduction in the use of low-value imaging in 94 and 74% of the studies, respectively. The most addressed types of imaging were musculoskeletal (n = 26), neurological (n = 23) and vascular (n = 16) imaging. Seventy-seven studies reported reduced low-value imaging, while 3 studies reported an increase. Conclusions Multi-component interventions that include education were often more effective than single-component interventions. The contextual and cultural factors in the health care systems seem to be vital for successful reduction of low-value imaging. Further research should focus on assessing the impact of the context in interventions reducing low-value imaging and how interventions can be adapted to different contexts.