Radiology quality assurance programs result from mishaps

An embarrassing sequence of incidents across Canada involving misinterpreted mammograms, CT scans and other imaging modalities has led to an effort by British Columbia and Alberta to implement radiology quality assurance programs in the two provinces.

The province of Alberta is considering a system that would electronically issue a random sample of images and reports by one radiologist to another for review. British Columbia has a similar pilot program in place and is looking to roll it out on a wider basis.

"It does seem sometimes like we're [radiologists] being unfairly singled out," Calgary-based radiologist Rob Sevick told the National Post. Sevick, who is helping develop Alberta's project, added that the program is "meant primarily as an educational exercise, not as a punitive exercise. ... The object is to learn from the mistakes of others."

In Alberta, a provincial review of radiologic and pathologic procedures followed after a report of a series of mistakes involving the reading of ultrasounds, X-rays and CT scans at an Alberta hospital.

According to an article in the Toronto Sun, Alberta Health Services was forced to contact 34 patients from Drumheller Hospital in 2011 after a review found that their test results had been misinterpreted.

And, as described in a 2011 article in the Vancouver Sun, British Columbia issued a report saying that 12 patients--including three who died--faced delayed treatment or misdiagnoses as a result of their tests being read by radiologists who were unqualified to handle their cases.

The Alberta plan would involve sending selected test results to a different part of the province for review; technologists would check image quality, while radiologists would review the findings of the initial radiologist to interpret the study.

British Columbia is conducting a pilot project around Vancouver where CT scans are selected for review after a case has been completed.

To learn more:
- read the article in the National Post
- see the article in the Toronto Sun
- check out the article in the Vancouver Sun

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