Frank Levy Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT
Research Associate in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Email: Discipline: Economics

Investigator Award
Curbing the Use of Medical Imaging: Searching for Efficient Technology Utilization in a Fee-for-Service World
Award Year: 2007 High-tech diagnostic imaging equipment is now available in hospitals, imaging centers, large multi-specialty group practices, and more types of doctors' offices than ever before. While this has made things easier for physicians and patients, it has also produced rapid growth in medical expenditures for scans and contributed to the overall rise in U.S. health care spending. Although medical professionals generally agree that imaging's rapid growth includes significant waste due to overuse, scientific evidence is lacking on which imaging is unnecessary. Frank Levy, Ph.D. seeks to better understand the drivers of the rapid growth in spending for imaging and the ways that waste might be identified. His project, Curbing the Use of Medical Imaging - Searching for Efficient Technology Utilization in a Fee-for-Service World, analyzes spending growth and examines initiatives by health care organizations to define and limit unnecessary imaging and to influence physician behavior. Levy notes that this "soft rationing" - limiting medical expenditures and unnecessary procedures through strategies such as prior authorization requirements and physician profiling - may also become important in other areas of health care. His research findings should help inform efforts to contain the growth and costs of imaging as well as other medical procedures.


Previously the Daniel Rose Professor Urban Economics, Frank Levy is a labor economist and a professor emeritus in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is currently a research associate in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. His research focuses broadly on the determinants of living standards including the relationship between education and earnings and the ways that technology and offshoring are changing skill demands in the U.S. labor market. He currently works on various aspects of the medical imaging industry including the (very limited) impact of international teleradiology on U.S. health care and the effect of scanning equipment limits on medical practice. He is also working on the role of changing economic institutions in the weakened connection between aggregate productivity growth and the wages of the average worker. Levy's recent work includes The New Division of Labor: How Computers are Creating the Next Job Market (Princeton University Press paperback, 2005), co-authored with Richard J. Murnane, "Offshoring Radiology Services to India", co-authored with Kyoung-Hee Yu, and "Inequality and Institutions in 20th Century America, co-authored with Peter Temin, the subject of a New York Times Editorial (6/11/2007) and other media discussion. Levy completed his undergraduate work in economics at MIT. He has a Masters and Ph.D. in economics from Yale. He began teaching at MIT in 1992 after ten years at the University of California, Berkeley, four years at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. and eleven years at the University of Maryland at College Park.