Accreditation Testing of Medical Imaging Programs

In the recent years since the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began to require accreditation for reimbursement for medical services by non-hospital facilities, a wave of change has hit the healthcare industry here in the U.S.. Insurance companies have followed suit, and now most insurance companies require some form of accreditation by a healthcare provider to pay for services to a patient. Combine that with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA or "Obamacare") and you have an environment where everyone has to be accredited by someone to stay in business.

One of the effects of this is that imaging modalities are now being required to be held to standards set by accrediting bodies like the American College of Radiology (ACR). They require that review of imaging units, including Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Mammography, Ultrasound, Gamma Cameras and Positron Emission Tomography (PET), include annual physicist testing by a board-certified physicist. Some providers have chosen to go with accreditation by other bodies, like the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC) which do not require annual physicist testing of gamma cameras and PET units.

Hospitals are also being held to equivalent standards set by ACR through accrediting groups like The Joint Commission (JCAHO). They are beginning to include langauge to their diagnostic imaging accreditation that is generally equivalent to performance standards set by the ACR, but there are still enough differences to warrant a cross-comparison by a healthcare provider prior to choosing who's standards are best to meet. At this time, DNV Healthcare does not have this language but that may change in time.

If you are a healthcare provider, whoever you choose as your accreditation standard you will have to invest extra time, effort and capital to ensure these standards are met. Once again, this is where a diagnostic physicist can provide assistance. Some accreditating groups require a physicist to test your imaging system, and some require that the physicist be certified by a medical board like the American Board of Radiology. It is your responsibility to make sure that these requirements are being met, since some accrediting bodies are now doing unannounced, onsite inspections to verify all accreditation standards are being followed.

As a board-certified physicist in Diagnostic Medical Physics by the American Board of Radiology (ABR) and grandfathered to do testing of gamma cameras due to the time I've spent doing ACR testing, I can meet these requirements. I have helped facilities get accreditation with the ACR, maintain accreditation and resume accreditation after moving. To date, I have performed nearly 100 accreditations, and in almost every case the facility has either achieved initial accreditation or were able to maintain accreditation. Of course, patience is a virtue here - roughly 90% of all failures are due to improper submission and testing, so planning and careful execution is key to minimizing costs in retesting and resubmission.