Prior Authorization and its Impact on Access to Obstetric Ultrasound

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Prior authorization is a process requiring healthcare providers to obtain advance approval from a payer before a patient undergoes a procedure in order for the study to be covered. Prior authorization was introduced to decrease overutilization of ultrasound procedures. However it has led to unanticipated consequences such as impeding access to obstetric imaging, increased administrative overhead without reimbursement, and contribution to physician frustration and burnout. Payers often use intermediary radiology benefit management companies without providing specialty-specific review in a timely manner as is requisite when practicing high-risk obstetrics. This article proposes a number of potential solutions to this problem: (1) Consider alternative means to monitor overutilization; (2) Create and evaluate data regarding providers in the highest utilization; (3) Continue to support and grow the educational efforts of speciality societies to publish clinical guidelines; and (4) Emphasize the importance of practicing evidence-based medicine. Understanding that not all health plans may be willing or able to collaborate with healthcare providers we encourage physicians to advocate for policies and legislation to limit the implementation of prior authorization within their own states.