por Loren Bonner
, DOTmed News Online Editor | September 10, 2012
From the September 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
This year, Geoff West, president and chief medical physicist at West Physics Consulting, noticed that several clients were calling in with requests for guidance on MRI safety. The Atlanta, Ga.-based company provides advanced imaging testing services and consulting to hospitals and imaging facilities, but they didn’t have a third party assessment and training service for MRI safety in place that could fulfill recommendations from the various U.S. regulatory and accrediting bodies. In fact, they found that no other company offered this service to MRI facilities. So after some careful planning, West Physics launched a multi-element MRI safety service in July.
“Most of the services we introduce are based on demand,” says West.
In essence, the report that West Physics generates is something facilities can hand inspectors to show that they have policies and procedures in place for MRI safety. As West points out, MRI safety has been getting more attention from regulators and accrediting bodies. For one, he says, the American College of Radiology will begin performing unannounced site surveys under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, checking if a facility is compliant with accreditation criteria, which includes safety for MRI and CT programs. In addition to the ACR, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Joint Commission have all shown interest in stepping up efforts to ensure MRI safety. And at the state level, there are even more tangible signs of change.
The Wild West
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While West Physics’ new MRI safety service is a step in the right direction, the fact that educational courses for safety exist in the first place highlights a missing component for what should have been a top priority for MRI environments all along.
“From a regulatory standpoint, MRI is the Wild West,” says Tobias Gilk, president and MRI safety director at Mednovus, Inc. and senior vice president of RADPlanning. “You would be hard-pressed to find a single regulatory requirement for physical safety in the MRI environment. They don’t exist on the federal level, they exist somewhat at the state level, and they hardly exist from accrediting bodies, even the ones who publish MRI best practice safety data.”
But there may be some valid reasons for the lapse in oversight. MRI safety expert Dr. Emanuel Kanal, director of magnetic resonance services and professor of radiology and neuroradiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, explains that the infrequency of accidents probably plays a part.