Intermountain tool tracks cumulative patient radiation

Intermountain Healthcare is launching a system that will allow it to measure and report patients' cumulative radiation exposure from imaging examinations.

Hospital officials, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, said they hope tracking cumulative radiation dose from the 220,000 annual CT scans and radiology procedures will make it easier to make decisions about the appropriateness of imaging studies. Since the middle of last year, Intermountain has been tracking radiation exposure from four procedures: CT studies, angiography, nuclear cardiology and cardiac catheterization.

Concerns about cumulative radiation exposure have grown with the publication of research that, for example, suggests that undergoing CT scans may increase an individual's risk of developing cancer. An article published online this week in BMJ reports that children and adolescents who undergo CT may be at greater risk of developing cancer than those who don't.

Consequently, organizations like the Salt Lake City-based Intermountain have been looking for ways to accurately track cumulative radiation dose. According to the WSJ article, the Hospital Corporation of America, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., has started a new campaign called Radiation Right through which it plans to track radiation dose. The American College of Radiology, meanwhile, sponsors the Dose Index Registry that allows healthcare facilities to compare their CT dose indices with national and regional values.

Additionally, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston has developed two informatics tools that can capture more than 97 percent of a patient's total radiation exposure from all nuclear medicine and CT exams. "Both of these open-source tools are designed to try to automatically extract as much radiation exposure data as we can from existing sources in the electronic medical record," Aaron Sodickson, section chief of emergency radiology at Brigham and Women's, told Medscape last July. "There has been a great deal of attention on radiation exposure issues, but we don't yet have a great method to gather the mass of [exposure] data out there in the electronic medical record."

To learn more:
- read about the Intermountain Healthcare cumulative radiation exposure initiative
- here's the article in the Wall Street Journal
check out the article in BMJ
- read about the Dose Index Registry
- see the Medscape article

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