The Reading Room

Joint Commission focuses on CT tech education in new imaging requirements

by Solomon Banjo

The Joint Commission has just set out new requirements for diagnostic imaging services that apply to both hospitals and critical access hospitals. These requirements go into effect on September 1, 2016, and build upon the groundwork laid in last year’s updates related to technologist education.

As we noted in our previous blog post, last year’s updates left imaging leaders with questions around minimum training requirements for CT techs. This update focuses on providing answers concerning certification and ongoing training requirements for CT technologists.

CT techs required to have advanced-level certification by January 1, 2018

The Joint Commission continues its focus on patient safety in CT by requiring that technologists performing diagnostic computed tomography exams have advanced-level certification by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). This certification will be mandatory starting January 1, 2018. Existing technologists will have to participate in ongoing education and training to prepare them to meet these criteria by the date of implementation.

The Commission also lays out three alternate ways technologists can meet these standards:

  • State licensure that permits them to perform diagnostic CT exams and documented training on the provision of diagnostic CT exams, or
  • Registration and certification in radiography by ARRT and documented training on the provision of diagnostic CT exams, or
  • Certification in nuclear medicine technology by ARRT or NMTCB and documented training on the provision of diagnostic CT exams.

There are three exam types exempted from these new standards:

  • CT exams performed for therapeutic radiation treatment planning or delivery
  • CT exams performed to calculate the attenuation coefficients for nuclear medicine studies
  • Dental cone beam CT studies performed for the diagnosis of conditions affecting the maxillofacial region or to obtain guidance for the treatment of such conditions

Difficulty with compliance likely to vary significantly from organization to organization

The need to improve CT technologist education has been a topic of discussion in imaging for many years. Advocates have long called for educational standards similar to those in Canada and the United Kingdom where CT is considered part of the core curriculum. A 2008 survey conducted by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) found that 68% of CT technologists believed that entry-level programs should increase their emphasis on computed tomography.

While there is no publicly available data on how many technologists currently meet these criteria, it is likely that organizations in the 35 states that use AART-administered exams will find it easier to comply by the 2018 deadline. However, compliance is likely to represent a significant investment both from the imaging department and the technologists, so providers should begin working towards these goals now.

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