American College Of Cardiology And Unitedhealthcare Partner To Launch Pilot Program To Advance Appropriate Use Of Cardiac Imaging

Contact: Amy Murphy,, 202-375-6476

WASHINGTON (October 25, 2007) – The American College of Cardiology (ACC) today announced a pilot program, sponsored in part by UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, that will assist physicians in the appropriate use of a commonly performed test -- Single-Photon Emission Computed Tomography Myocardial Perfusion Imaging (SPECT MPI) -- used to evaluate patients with known or suspected coronary artery disease. The ACC, along with the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology (ASNC), published Appropriateness Criteria for SPECT imaging two years ago; ACC is now focused on assisting physicians in the implementation of the Criteria aimed at improving test utilization. This program represents the first time ACC has partnered with a health plan to implement Appropriateness Criteria, which provide expert physician opinion on the use of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures with regard to cardiovascular disease.

To be launched at 10 practice sites, the pilot program is designed to help physicians evaluate their performance of test ordering by providing feedback on their use of SPECT MPI nuclear cardiac imaging based upon empirical Appropriateness Criteria established by the ACC and ASNC. Through convenient access to these Appropriateness Criteria and the objective assessment of their performance by the ACC, this program will support physicians in their efforts to continuously improve the quality and cost effectiveness of their clinical care.

Jack Lewin, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of the American College of Cardiology, said, “As the professional home of our nation’s cardiologists, the ACC is in a unique position to provide our members with reliable information and assessment of their clinical performance. We are confident that cardiologists will use the insights from this initiative to help maximize their skills and effectiveness. We are appreciative that UnitedHealthcare has stepped forward to provide resources and support for this important pilot.”

Reed Tuckson, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief of Medical Affairs, UnitedHealth Group said, “At UnitedHealth Group, we believe that professional medical societies should define the guidance for clinical interventions and determine the appropriateness of their use. As such, we applaud the American College of Cardiology for providing leadership to support our nation’s cardiologists in the process of continuing professional development on behalf of their patients. Patients, employers and physicians will all benefit as a result of ACC’s leadership.”

Appropriateness Criteria refer to the ongoing effort by the ACC to create, review and categorize clinical situations in which diagnostic tests and procedures are put into practice by physicians caring for patients with cardiovascular diseases. The ACC bases its recommendations on the latest medical literature and the most current understanding of the imaging modalities’ technical capabilities.

SPECT MPI is a nuclear medicine imaging technique using a small amount of radiation to image the patterns of blood supply to the heart and is one of several types of cardiac stress tests. This method is used to diagnose and evalutate ischemic heart disease, which is characterized by reduced blood supply to the heart and is the most common cause of death in most western countries.

Pilot Program Details

The pilot program will:

  • Develop a process and a web-based tool for collecting data to evaluate the appropriateness of SPECT MPI testing;
  • Examine patterns of SPECT utilization in practices that participate in UnitedHealthcare’s network, representing diversity in practice size and geographic location;
  • Develop and provide confidential feedback to physicians regarding their appropriateness patterns;
  • Assess changes in practice patterns over time;
  • Establish SPECT MPI appropriateness thresholds to identify acceptable and outlier practice patterns.

Robert C. Hendel, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.S.N.C., chair of the Appropriateness Criteria Evaluation Pilot Project and a member of the Appropriateness Criteria Working Group said, "We hope that this will provide the practicing cardiologist with the kind of assistance needed to assess test utilization. The collaboration between the ACC and UnitedHealthcare is a partnership that will ultimately serve the best interests of our patients. We are pleased with efforts like this, as these are certain to facilitate the clinical implementation of the Appropriateness Criteria."

About The American College of Cardiology
The American College of Cardiology is leading the way to optimal cardiovascular care and disease prevention. The College is a 34,000-member nonprofit medical society and bestows the credential Fellow of the American College of Cardiology upon physicians who meet its stringent qualifications. The College is a leader in the formulation of health policy, standards and guidelines, and is a staunch supporter of cardiovascular research. The ACC provides professional education and operates national registries for the measurement and improvement of quality care. For more information, visit

About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare ( provides a full spectrum of consumer-oriented health benefit plans and services. The company organizes access to quality, affordable health care services on behalf of more than 28 million individual consumers, contracting directly with more than 500,000 physicians and care professionals and 4,700 hospitals nationwide to offer consumers broad, convenient access to services nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company.

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