Anyone who has ever been a patient knows what it feels like to have to make difficult medical decisions regarding the kind, type and quality of care they receive. And let’s face it, navigating through such complex healthcare systems is no easy task. Most of us end up feeling confused, defeated, and powerless. Add to the worry, medical imaging, is often required in order to make the proper diagnosis of disease and create treatment plans.
A big complaint I often hear from patients, friends, and family is not knowing how to choose the right provider for their imaging. Many of us simply do not have the time or energy to research review sites or call insurance providers to cross check coverage and ratings. To make matters worse, there are more choices than ever before as to where you can get your mammogram, x-ray, MR, or other imaging performed. It sounds like a good problem to have but too many choices can create confusion. From self-standing imaging centers to academic hospitals, it is easy to question which type of center provides the highest quality exams.
The good news is that the American College of Radiology (ACR) has taken a lot of the guess work regarding medical imaging out of the equation. As the expert medical society dedicated to serving patients and society through the advancement of radiology practices, they have created a gold standard within imaging known as ACR Accreditation.
Having accredited over 38,000 within 10 different modalities, the ACR strives to continually raise the bar when it comes to patients. In fact, the ACR cares so much about patients that it has an entire commission focused on providing quality patient experiences within imaging. Through committee engagements, project collaboration, and focused goals, the ACR is a strong believer in using patients to help guide their own experiences. By accrediting centers that provide imaging, the ACR can take that patient focus one step further by monitoring and ensuring the consistency, accuracy, and quality of the imaging services they receive. From a patient’s perspective, this can only mean good things.
Easily identifiable by a gold seal, such gold standards of care are defined by the ACR and supported by regulatory bodies across ten different types of imaging. As a result, imaging centers that perform any type of breast imaging are required by law to be accredited within the US. Because of Medicare payment rules and regulations, many modalities require accreditation in order to receive payment from certain plans. The ten modalities that can be accredited include:
· Breast Imaging including Mammography, Stereotactic Breast Biopsy, Breast MR, Breast Ultrasound
· Nuclear Medicine and PET
· Radiation Oncology
Each modality from breast imaging to MRI has its own specific set of goals to achieve and maintain through the accreditation process, however, all modalities are required through this process to meet quality benchmarks including:
· Staff that is highly qualified with the proper training and technologist credentials.
· Imaging equipment that is safe and accurate.
· Patients exposure to radiation is monitored, documented, and limited.
· Systems are in place to consistently check and assure the quality of images.
By taking all the guesswork away from patients, this little gold seal ensures the very best patient experiences from the moment you enter the door to your diagnosis. And because accreditation is an ongoing process that needs to be renewed every few years, patients don’t have to worry about consistency. These centers remain committed and engaged in achieving excellence each and every time.
Sometimes the best things in life really are that simple. Look for the ACR gold seal and rest assured you are in good hands to be able to tackle the very important job of caring for your own health and well- being.
Written By: Julie Kaufield, MA, RT(R)