CARE Act seeks to set new imaging guidelines

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Targeting patients undergoing medical imaging procedures or radiation therapy, new legislation, introduced June 2 by U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and John Barrow (D-GA), would set new education and certification standards for technical medical professionals performing imaging, if ratified. The CARE Act (or Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility and Excellence in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Act), is sponsored by a bipartisan group of 19 members of the House of Representatives.

The CARE Act seeks to ensure that medical imaging and radiation therapy are performed by professionals with appropriate education and competency assessment through certification, according to Whitfield. Those measures would prevent poor imaging tests, which can lead to misdiagnosis, additional testing and delays in treatment, ultimately costing the healthcare system millions of dollars, according to supporters.

“By setting minimum education and certification standards for the technical personnel involved in these procedures, Congress can address these concerns and assure patients that imaging and therapy personnel are qualified while also being responsible with taxpayer dollars spent on these procedures,” Whitfield said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this legislation that would protect consumers by reducing errors leading to inaccurate diagnoses and treatment, and which in some instances have caused serious harm.”

The CARE bill has gained the support of the American Society of Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), as well as the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA).

“High-quality patient care has always been the number one priority of the imaging industry. We fully support the steps that Representatives Whitfield and Barrow 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 in a statement.

MITA also outlined some of the measures already under way to improve patient care and safety.

  • Earlier this year manufacturers released a Radiation Dose Reduction Plan, which includes support for mandatory reporting of medical errors associated with ionizing radiation, certification of imaging technologists and accreditation of imaging facilities.
  • CT manufacturers released the CT Dose Check Initiative, which is a commitment to add new features to CT scanners: Dose Notification feature, aimed at providing more information to users to facilitate reducing the dose levels associated with scans; and a Dose Alert feature to prevent medical errors; and a new dose recording feature to help track dose and to develop reference dose levels to help providers understand how their facility compares to local and national standards.
  • In June 2010, radiation therapy technology manufacturers released the Radiation Therapy Readiness Check Initiative to develop and implement additional patient protection features for radiation therapy equipment and accessories and ensure patients are properly positioned prior to delivery of therapy.

The CARE bill previously has been introduced, but never passed: HR 3652 was introduced in Sept. 2009 and S. 3737 was introduced in August 2010.