An estimated 4 to 7 percent of nuclear and molecular imaging procedures are repeated due to poor imaging, which equates to $132 million in Medicare spending on avoidable scans, according to the Government Accountability Office. The Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility and Excellence in Medical Imaging (CARE) bill, which would establish minimum education and certification standards for personnel who perform nuclear medicine and molecular imaging procedures, could help curb these costs, according to SNM.
“Having to repeat a nuclear or molecular imaging scan because of the poor quality of the original image is something that shouldn’t happen and something that can be fixed,” stated Ann Marie Alessi, BS, president of SNM’s technologist section. “By ensuring that the technologists performing these scans have appropriate training and education, Congress can ensure that most of these repeated scans are avoided.”
Poor-quality scans also can result in misdiagnosis of disease, delays in treatment and needless anxiety for the patient. If additional testing is required, patients are exposed to an increased amount of radiation. While imaging can be an invaluable tool, the procedures do carry a potential health risk, and radiation can be harmful if administered improperly.
To improve the quality of medical imaging, the CARE bill has been introduced on Capitol Hill. If enacted, this bill would establish minimum education and certification standards for personnel who perform nuclear medicine and molecular imaging procedures. As a result, institutions that provide medical imaging or radiation therapy to Medicare patients would be required to employ personnel who meet or exceed the standards set by the federal government.
The CARE bill is supported by the Alliance for Quality Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy, a group co-founded by SNM, its technologist section and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists in 1998. Since then, an additional 20 organizations have joined the alliance; together, the 23 groups represent more than 500,000 healthcare professionals. The bill currently has 89 cosponsors, and it is expected that companion legislation will be introduced in the U.S. Senate.
Currently, only 30 states, as well as Washington, D.C., have certification or licensure provisions for nuclear medicine and molecular imaging technologists that require them to be certified by a national credentialing organization. Twenty states do not regulate the profession at all.
“Individuals undergoing nuclear and molecular imaging should know that even in states that don’t have formal requirements, many technologists do hold certifications and are skilled in their profession,” Alessi said.