NQF endorses outpatient imaging standards

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The National Quality Forum (NQF) has endorsed eight U.S. voluntary consensus standards to encourage the appropriate and efficient use of imaging procedures in outpatient settings.

Through measurements and public reporting, the set of standards helps decrease inappropriate use and costs associated with outpatient imaging, according to the Washington, D.C.-based NQF.

Outpatient imaging, such as CT scans and MRIs, is frequently performed as part of healthcare delivery that has an annual cost of approximately $14 billion for Medicare beneficiaries. Yet, the NQF said that there are few national standards to measure the safety, quality, efficiency and appropriate use of the outpatient services.
“There are opportunities within many areas of our healthcare system to eliminate waste by providing effective services and only effective services, to each and every patient,” said Janet Corrigan, NQF president and CEO. “To improve the quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare in America, we must reduce unnecessary and redundant services that expose patients to more potential harm than good.”

When measured and publicly reported, the standards endorsed by NQF could serve to help healthcare systems pinpoint inefficiencies, waste and overuse within outpatient imaging services by tracking patient radiation exposure, documenting the use of imaging services and tracking the use of results.

NQF said that specific standards within the set encourage the appropriate use of mammography by measuring use of a patient reminder system for screening breast cancer. Other standards aim to reduce inappropriate use and patient radiation exposure by documenting the use of imaging when few symptoms are present. Measures also intend to make imaging results more helpful and accurate by removing report categories that are unclear or ambiguous, such as documenting a mammography result as "probably benign."