Technology has given clinicians new tools to diagnose symptoms, decide treatments and share information, changing what it means to be a doctor or patient.
Take CT scans. It’s amazing that doctors can peer into a patient’s body to see what’s going on in there and diagnose quickly and easily. But at the same time, you’re exposing the patient to ionizing radiation. And in the long run, all of those CT scans add up.
With the buzz around unnecessary, duplicative and excessive radiation imaging procedures, radiology has evolved from a mysterious but essential field of medicine to a mysterious but dangerous field of medicine.
Instead of just sitting back and reading these reports, it’s time to take action to reassure patients. The benefits of ionizing radiation applied appropriately and responsibly far outweigh the risks.
So what’s the solution?
It involves a commitment to focus on 2 things:
- Preventing the inappropriate use of imaging studies
- Optimizing these studies to obtain the best image quality with the lowest radiation dose
Sounds simple, right? Not so fast.
The bad news: the details involved in applying these solutions are vast. The good news: there are plenty of resources available to help you.
The American College of Radiology has developed evidence-based guidelines to assist referring physicians and other providers. This “appropriateness criteria” supplements a clinician’s judgment as to whether a patient is a candidate for the given treatment, test or procedure.
And this criterion, once used in response to those accusing radiology of being the primary cause for out of control healthcare costs, is now just as important as a means for controlling patient exposure to radiation.
This is where radiation dose management plays such a critical part.
There is no exact science to it, but much of the regulatory/legislative attention has focused primarily on computed tomography, due to its higher levels of radiation. Because of this, a variety of strategies have emerged to more effectively manage dose – from technology designed to monitor dose levels and produce images using lower doses, to organizational change management techniques designed to identify and implement greater dose awareness and control opportunities.
Radiation safety in action
Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo recently shared their experiences in implementing a comprehensive radiation dose reduction program. Some of the tactics they used included:
- Creating a radiation dose reduction committee
- Enlisting the services of a prominent medical physicist group
- Signing onto a national dose index registry
- Implementing a methodology to review results and adjust protocols
- Initiating a marketing campaign to promote radiation dose awareness
So what’s your organization doing to ensure you’re delivering the safest, most effective radiology services possible to patients?