Experts Call for Better Oversight of Radiological Procedures

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , March 1, 2010

While radiologists determine how the CT tests are performed, few national guidelines are available on how these studies should be conducted, Smith-Bindman said. "Therefore, there is great potential for practice variation that could introduce unnecessary harm from excessive radiation dosing."

Since information on radiation is reported differently across the various types of CT machines, radiologists may find it difficult to standardize their practice, she said. The American College of Radiology has established a voluntary accreditation process to standardize practice, Smith-Bindman said.

However, while the approach is promising, data collection is "extremely limited, making it difficult if not impossible for [ACR] to monitor if facilities comply with their recommendations."

In the current environment, medical technology and decision making "are increasingly complex, and rapid changes in diagnosis and care delivery compound the situation," said Tim Williams, MD, chairman of the board of Directors On behalf of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRAY).

ASTRAY recently launched a new quality- and safety-focused self assessment module based on best practices to improve clinical care in radiation oncology. "This online education tool provides best practice guidelines for dosimetrists, physicists, therapists, physicians, and nurses," Williams said.

The new module emphasizes the use of peer review, including an analysis of treatment steps that may be prone to human error, documentation of near misses, development of departmental checklists to catch errors, and engaging the entire radiation oncology treatment team to openly discuss patient safety, Williams added.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at

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