What can providers do to ensure teleradiology quality?

Teleradiology has the potential to bring many positives to patient care such as improved overnight coverage and access to subspecialty interpretations. As Chair of the ACR Task Force on Teleradiology, I had the privilege of overseeing the creation of best practice standards to help ensure quality from the field of teleradiology. The product of our effort is a white paper detailing the task force’s recommendations.

Teleradiology providers should carefully consider the standards proposed by the task Force. Above all, any teleradiology activity or relationship should safeguard patient primacy. Any incentives, financial or otherwise, should be patient centered and adhere to the Institute of Medicine’s call for accessible, safe, accurate and timely care.

The task force recommendations are comprehensive and pertain to the teleradiologist, including his or her work environment and technological interfaces. The task force also comments on interpretative/professional services, payment/regulatory considerations and broader technological considerations.

An important group of recommendations applies to continued quality improvement initiatives. This includes satisfying the continuing medical education (CME) and continuing experience (CE) required for state licensure and accreditation of facilities served. Teleradiology providers also should participate in an established quality assurance program which includes formal peer review. This peer review should address physician education, enable longitudinal follow up and include processes for remediation of low performing radiologists.

The impetus to maintain quality falls not only on the teleradiology providers but also falls upon the end users of teleradiology services such as radiology groups who contract with teleradiology companies for supplemental coverage. These radiology groups should call for high quality and include quality assurance language in their contracts with teleradiology providers. Language to stimulate the appropriate conversations is included in the teleradiology paper.

When it comes to radiology services, no double standards should exist between on site and remote coverage as it relates to quality. There should be a single high standard of quality for both teleradiology providers and on-site radiologists. When all parties engaged in teleradiology relationships maintain best practice standards, the patients served stand to benefit.

View the task force report.

About the author: Ezequiel Silva III, MD, of South Texas Radiology Group in San Antonio, is chair of the ACR Task Force on Teleradiology.