CARE bill for medical radiation, imaging services introduced
The Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility and Excellence (CARE) in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy bill (S. 3737) was introduced in the U.S. Senate last week for the establishment of minimum education and credentialing standards for personnel who plan and deliver radiation therapy treatments and medical imaging services as part of the Medicare program.

Sens. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, introduced the CARE bill, as currently, basic educational standards, licensing and certification for medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals are voluntary in many states, with some individuals performing radiologic procedures without any formal education.

“Each year, more than 300 million radiation therapy treatments and imaging exams like x-rays and MRIs are performed in the U.S. and unfortunately, many of these procedures are performed by personnel who are not adequately trained or credentialed,” stated Harkin. “This bill will reduce the risk of medical errors associated with misdiagnosis or inappropriate exposure to medical radiation, and save millions of healthcare dollars by decreasing the number of examinations that must be repeated due to poor quality.”

According to Enzi and Harkin, the measure would:
  • Direct the Secretary of the Health and Human Services to work with medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals to develop regulations establishing minimum education and credentialing standards;
  • Establish a grandfathering process for current radiation therapy and imaging personnel who do not meet education or credentialing standards and offer the opportunity for existing practitioners to count their work experience toward their certification requirements; and  
  • Recognize the challenges of delivering care in rural and underserved areas in order to maintain access to medical imaging and radiation therapy in those communities.

Along with the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) voiced its support for CARE bill.

“High-quality patient care has always been the number one priority of the imaging industry. We fully support the steps that Senators Enzi and Harkin are taking to build on this commitment through trainings and standards that ensure safe and effective diagnosis and therapies,” said Dave Fisher, executive director of MITA.

As well as this bill, device manufacturers have already began making steps to improve patient safely and care, with the recently released Radiation Dose Reduction Plan, CT Dose Check Initiative and Radiation Therapy Readiness Check Initiative, noted MITA.    

First introduced by Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., in September 2009 in the House, the CARE bill also has been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and currently has 117 bipartisan cosponsors. Along with Enzi and Harkin, the bill is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Al Franken, D-Minn.