The Reading Room

Takeaways from the Joint Commission diagnostic imaging standards

by Solomon Banjo

The Joint Commission recently released new imaging standards that take effect July 1, 2015. These are the same standards the Commission postponed last year after receiving comments from stakeholders expressing significant concerns over the lack of detail for many proposals.

The most noticeable difference in this year’s standards is the removal of minimum CT technologist requirements. Read on to learn about the new Joint Commission standards and their implications for diagnostic imaging.

2015 standards largely consistent with postponed standards

The Joint Commission’s changes will affect ambulatory imaging sites, critical access hospitals, and accredited hospitals. The biggest changes in this year’s standards focus on:

  • Requirements for annual performance evaluations of advanced imaging modalities (CT, MR, Nuc Med, and PET) by a medical physicist or MRI scientist (for MRI only)
  • Ongoing annual education for CT and MR techs on radiation dose and patient safety concerns and screening criteria
  • Documentation of the radiation dose index (CTDlvol, DLP, or size-specific dose estimate [SSDE]) on every CT study
    • The report must be exam specific, including data on anatomic area, and be in a retrievable format

These are the same areas that the Commission targeted in its postponed standards, but the proposal is more detailed and clear than last year's issuance.

Related: Critical Access Benchmark Generator

Signs point to patient safety as a focus area for future standards

While more detailed than last year's release, this year's standards still leave questions for imaging providers. Here's what we took away from the proposal:

1. More work is needed to clearly articulate patient safety expectations in imaging. The new standards focusing on radiation dose and ongoing technologist training are an important first step, but there is still room for future clarification and expansion of what the exact expectations are for safety performance. Further evidence of the fact that there is room for improvement comes from the omission of burns as a safety concern associated with MRI.

2. Imaging providers still do not know what the minimum requirements for CT techs will be. We expect the Commission to address this issue in subsequent standards and know that many members are taking a proactive approach to training their staff, but we will have to wait and see what bar the Commission sets.

3. While CT bears most of the brunt this year, MR, PET, and Nuclear Medicine are likely targets of subsequent diagnostic imaging standards. CT features prominently in this year’s standards, but the Commission has stated on its blog that it plans to shift its gaze to other advanced scanners in future standards.

As always, we will continue to keep you apprised of Joint Commission standards as they come out and provide you with our insight on what they mean for you.

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