Radiation dose safety: Why it's more than an IT issue

Hospital officials looking to successfully implement an enterprise radiation dose safety program at their facilities should not assume that technology will do all of the work for them, according to Chris Tomlinson, administrative director of radiology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Tomlinson, speaking at the American Healthcare Radiology Administrator's fall conference in Baltimore last week, said that rather than approaching dose safety and management as just another IT project, hospitals would be wise to treat it as an enterprise-wide project, involving all relevant parties.

"Implementing a software program is not nearly enough," Tomlinson said. "If you don't have policies and procedures in place, if you haven't talked to, say, risk management, about the proper ways to create and aggregate dose reports, you could have some issues."

With regard to CHOP's dose safety program, Tomlinson said the primary task he and his colleagues wanted to achieve was optimizing image quality while minimalizing radiation exposure. From the get-go, he said, CHOP radiologists took the lead on development of the program, but also made sure to loop in other departments.

"Patient safety, risk and legal; whatever we're doing, we want to make sure they're along for the ride," he said. "They need to understand what we're trying to accomplish, that we're not developing this thing and then handing it off to them without context."

Inappropriate imaging concerns, in particular for pediatric patients, continue to be a hot-button item for the radiology industry. However, research published last month in the Journal of Managed Care Medicine concluded that both physician engagement and decision support technology help to drastically cut imaging overuse.

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