Minimal advanced imaging standards a must for safety

The lack of minimum standards for evaluating physician offices or standalone imaging centers that practice CT, MRI and PET could create big problems related to quality and safety.

As reported in this issue of FierceMedicalImaging, the General Accounting Office issued a report on Friday saying that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has not set any clear standards for three organizations it previously had approved to handle accreditations for advanced diagnostic imaging providers under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA): the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC), the Joint Commission and the American College of Radiology (ACR). In it's analysis, GAO consulted with 11 organizations with imaging expertise to develop a list of nine recommended standards that could be used by each of the three to evaluate advanced diagnostic imaging suppliers.

GAO determined that that while the ACR and ACI used all of nine of the recommended standards assessed, the Joint Commission used just six. For example, ACR and IAC standards require technologists and medical directors to meet minimum qualifications based on specific certification, experience, or continuing-education requirements, while the Joint Commission's standards don't require techs and medical directors to meet those minimum qualifications.

Instead, the Joint Commission only requires such personnel to meet applicable laws and qualifications defined by a supplier to perform assigned responsibilities.

This could create situations that prevent suppliers from meeting a minimum level of quality and safety. For instance, GAO points out that the American Society of Radiologic Technologists--one of the 11 organizations with which it consulted--reports that imaging services performed by individuals who are not experienced, educated, or certified in a specific imaging modality could compromise the quality of images or jeopardize the health or safety of supplier staff or Medicare beneficiaries.

I, like the American College of Radiology, agree with the GAO's analysis. And I'm also surprised that it's taken such an analysis to get to this point. Consistent minimal standards should have been a given from the outset.

Now, GAO's recommendations must quickly be put into action. - Mike  @FierceHealthIT