Meeting the Needs for Radiation Protection: Diagnostic Imaging.
Radiation and potential risk during medical imaging is one of the foremost issues for the imaging community. Because of this, there are growing demands for accountability, including appropriate use of ionizing radiation in diagnostic and image-guided procedures. Factors contributing to this include increasing use of medical imaging; increased scrutiny (from awareness to alarm) by patients/caregivers and the public over radiation risk; and mounting calls for accountability from regulatory, accrediting, healthcare coverage (e.g., Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), and advisory agencies and organizations as well as industry (e.g., NEMA XR-29, Standard Attributes on CT Equipment Related to Dose Optimization and Management). Current challenges include debates over uncertainty with risks with low-level radiation; lack of fully developed and targeted products for diagnostic imaging and radiation dose monitoring; lack of resources for and clarity surrounding dose monitoring programs; inconsistencies across and between practices for design, implementation and audit of dose monitoring programs; lack of interdisciplinary programs for radiation protection of patients; potential shortages in personnel for these and other consensus efforts; and training concerns as well as inconsistencies for competencies throughout medical providers' careers for radiation protection of patients. Medical care providers are currently in a purgatory between quality- and value-based imaging paradigms, a state that has yet to mature to reward this move to quality-based performance. There are also deficits in radiation expertise personnel in medicine. For example, health physics academic programs and graduates have recently declined, and medical physics residency openings are currently at a third of the number of graduates. However, leveraging solutions to the medical needs will require money and resources, beyond personnel alone. Energy and capital will need to be directed to:• innovative and cooperative cross-disciplinary institutional/practice oversight of and guidance for the use of diagnostic imaging (e.g., radiology, surgical specialties, cardiologists, and intensivists);• initiatives providing practical benchmarks (e.g., dose index registries);• comprehensive (consisting of access, integrity, metrology, analytics, informatics) and effective and efficient dose monitoring programs;• collaboration with industry;• improved use of imaging, such as through decision support combined with evidence-based appropriateness for imaging use;• integration with e-health such as medical records;• education, including information extending beyond the medical imaging community that is relevant to patients, public, and providers and administration;• identification of opportunities for alignment with salient media and advocacy organizations to deliver balanced information regarding medical radiation and risk;• open lines of communication between medical radiation experts and appropriate bodies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Joint Commission to assure appropriate guidance on documents and actions originating from these organizations; and• increased grant funding to foster translational work that advances understanding of low-level radiation and biological effects.
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