Socioeconomic status and the utilization of diagnostic imaging in an urban setting

Demeter, Sandor; Reed, Martin; Lix, Lisa; MacWilliam, Leonard; Leslie, William D.
November 2005
CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal;11/8/2005, Vol. 173 Issue 10, p1173
Academic Journal
Background: In publicly funded health care systems, the utilization of health care services should be equitable, irrespective of socioeconomic status (SES). Although the association between SES and health care utilization has been examined in Canada relative to surgical, cardiac and preventive health care services, no published studies have specifically explored the association between SES and diagnostic imaging. Methods: We examined over 300 000 diagnostic imaging claims made in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority between Apr. 1, 2001, and Mar. 31, 2002. Using patient postal codes, we assigned SES on the basis of average household incomes in Canada's 1996 census. Using multiple regression, we examined the association between income quintile, patient age group (≤ 16, 17-64, 65 years), patient morbidity level according to the Johns Hopkins University Adjusted Clinical Group method (high, moderate, low), and imaging modality (general radiology, vascular, computed tomography, magnetic resonance, and general and obstetric ultrasound). Results: Relative rates (RR) of diagnostic imaging utilization (highest v. lowest income quintile) were significantly increased in pediatric and adult patient groups at all morbidity levels receiving general radiology (highest RR 2.47, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.07-2.93); pediatric and adult patient groups at high and low morbidity levels and elderly patient groups at low morbidity levels receiving general ultrasound (highest RR 2.26, 95% CI 1.20-4.26); pediatric and adult patient groups at all morbidity levels and elderly patients at high and moderate morbidity levels receiving magnetic resonance imaging (highest RR 2.51, 95% CI 1.78-3.52); and adult patient groups at all morbidity levels receiving computed tomography (highest RR 1.46, 95% CI 1.35-1.59). A lower RR of diagnostic imaging utilization in the highest income quintile was found only among patients receiving obstetric ultrasound (RR 0.80, 95% CI 0.73-0.87). No significant associations were found among elderly patients receiving general radiology or computed tomography or adult patients receiving vascular imaging. Interpretation: We found a pattern of increased diagnostic imaging utilization in patient groups with a higher SES. Further research is needed to better understand the nature of this finding and how it contributes to health outcomes.


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