The Joint Commission released its latest Sentinel Event Alert this morning highlighting the need for healthcare facilities and staff to maintain radiation doses as low as possible during diagnostic imaging in order to decrease exposure to repeat doses. The Alert asks healthcare organizations to address contributing factors to eliminate avoidable exposure by weighing the medical necessity of a given level of radiation against the risks.
According to the Alert, the US population’s total radiation exposure has nearly doubled over the past two decades, and studies have estimated that 29,000 future cancers and 14,500 future deaths could develop due to radiation from the 72 million CT scans performed in the US in 2007.
In response, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will require accreditation of all facilities providing advanced imaging services (CT scans, MRI, PET, nuclear medicine) including non-hospital, freestanding settings beginning January 1, 2012. The state of California is also requiring facilities that furnish CT X-ray services to become accredited by July 1, 2013.
The Joint Commission gives some suggested actions leaders can take to raise awareness among staff and patients of the risk associated with aggregate radiation doses and provide proper testing and dosage through effective processes, safe technology, and a culture of safety.