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Chiropractic poised to help reduce spending on costly diagnostic imaging: CCA

Mari-Len De   


Dr. Jeff Warren, CCA presidentAug. 27, 2013 — The Canadian chiropractic profession wants to help provinces streamline
its medical imaging policy by helping reduce unnecessary yet costly
medical imaging, particularly for low back pain.

In a press statement, the Canadian Chiropractic Association (CCA) expressed support for the government’s move to develop guidelines in various provinces and territories for the use of medical imaging in minor head injuries, lower back pain and headaches.

In July, Canada’s premiers met at the Council of the Federation meeting to discuss improvements to the quality and sustainability of Canada’s health care system. Part of the outcome of the meeting was an agreement among participating provinces and territories to develop and adopt guidelines for medical imaging, as appropriate for their respective jurisdictions.


“When Canadians suffer from low back pain, they want answers as soon as possible about the best way of getting relief. The Council of the Federation goals are achievable if there is better guidance on alternatives to unnecessary diagnostic tests,” said Dr. Jeff Warren, president of the CCA.

Recent studies suggest some patients receive treatments that may not be best suited for their actual needs. Spending on diagnostic imaging in Canada has increased over the years and is now at around $2.2 billion annually.

The Canadian Association of Radiologists, estimates that between 10 and 20 per cent of these imaging tests may be unnecessary — and could lead to a savings of $220 million each year.

According to the CCA, lower back pain could be at the top of the list for potential savings in medical imaging by referring patients to a local spinal care pathway for assessment and management, instead of diagnostic imaging.
“Care pathways that include chiropractors are showing better outcomes at a lower cost,” Dr. Warren said.

Ninety per cent of patients who are referred to spinal specialists are not candidates for surgery, yet many patients wait months for their imaging and consultation only to be sent back to their physician, the CCA said, adding spinal pathways can provide timely assessment to determine the appropriate care needed to address a patient’s condition sooner.

According to the CCA, the chiropractic profession will support the efforts of the provincial and territorial governments to develop new guidelines and tools to increase the appropriateness of diagnostic imaging, including referral options to help Canadians suffering from low back pain. 

"We're looking to work with our provincial associations to help inform the provincial governments about the opportunities here to provide better care through their efforts to reduce unnecessary diagnostic imaging," Michael Heitshu, director of government affairs and policy at the CCA, told Canadian Chiropractor.

Heitshu added this move by the governments to improve their diagnostic imaging policies is not just about governments looking to save money, but it also provides great potential for delivering better health care for patients.

"What we are encouraging is to recognize that when someone shows up at their doctor's office with lower back pain, that they are better served if they are referred to a model of care where there are practitioners who have expertise in the assessment of musculoskeletal conditions so they can be appropriately directed to the right care pathway," Heitshu said. 

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