Medical imaging incident reporting system could boost patient safety

From doctors who don't follow imaging protocols to hospitals that cut radiology staffing corners to save money, the dangers of radiation overexposure continue to dog healthcare. Researchers writing in the May edition of the Journal of the American College of Radiology said the healthcare system could improve radiation safety with a national incident reporting system for medical imaging.

"A national incident reporting system for imaging is inevitable in our current healthcare environment," University of Pennsylvania Hospital radiologist Jason Itri, M.D., told FierceHealthIT. "There is a need on the part of physicians, payers, government and consumers to establish reliable metrics to determine the quality of care relative to imaging, and to do this we must reliably be able to track the types and frequency of errors. Quantification and characterization of errors is a tremendous field of opportunity and imaging professionals need to make it a priority."

Itri and his co-author, Arun Krishnaraj, M.D., a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, argued that the system should be a part of a bigger patient safety initiative in order to be effective. Such an approach has been shown to be effective in reducing healthcare-acquired infections throughout the nation, according to an April Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Itri and Krishnaraj added that potential benefits for such a system include reduced morbidity and mortality and improved patient and referring physician satisfaction in addition to reduced costs and liability.

While the American College of Radiology did launch a national General Radiology Improvement Database (GRID) in January 2009 to collect information on incident reports, Itri said he thinks there needs to be a system independent of the ACR. That, he said, will take time.

"I think one of the biggest barriers to reporting is the lack of feedback about what happens after an incident is reported, as well as the availability of information to create positive change," Itri said. "There needs to be information that can be used to identify contributing factors. ... I see something like this happening within the next five to 10 years; I will certainly be one of the people trying to make it happen and I know several others who have submitted grants to develop these types of systems."

To learn more:
- read the JACR article's abstract

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