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Medical imaging at local hospital exceeds national standards

November 17, 2011
By staff ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - Adirondack Medical Center has sharply reduced the frequency in which it gives patients two computed tomography (CT) chest scans in one sitting - from 68 percent of the time in 2008 down to 5.5 percent now, right around the national average - hospital spokesman Joe Riccio said this week.

In a separate development regarding CT scanning, the local hospital's Medical Imaging Department was recently accredited in CT for three years by the American College of Radiology.

CT scanning is a noninvasive medical imaging test that helps physicians diagnose and tailor treatments for various medical conditions. For example, a CT scan can find the size, shape and exact location of an abnormal growth, a sizeable tumor or a musculoskeletal injury.

Article Photos

Amy Durkee, CT technologist, helped Adirondack Medical Center get accredited.
(Photo courtesy of AMC)

In June, an investigative report by The New York Times found that AMC and hundreds of other hospitals nationwide routinely gave its Medicare patients a second dose of radiation. Most experts say double scanning is unnecessary and risky, and it's also more expensive for Medicare, according to the newspaper.


Double scanning

The Times reviewed Medicare data from 2008, the most recent year for which data was available, and found that more than 76,000 patients across the country received two CT chest scans in one sitting: one without dye and the other with dye injected into their veins. Locally, the federal data showed AMC provided a second CT chest scan in the same sitting to 205 of 303 Medicare patients who got an initial scan in 2008. That 68 percent double-scanning rate was much higher than any other hospital in the region, and was also well above the national average of 5.4 percent.

At the time, AMC officials couldn't explain why so many of its Medicare patients that year were getting double scanned.

"Based on what was in that article, AMC and its physicians are going to review the data, especially the ordering protocols for CT scans in general and as it relates to chest scans, and then we're going to make the appropriate changes," AMC spokesman Joe Riccio told the Enterprise in June.

When the hospital released news of the accreditation last week, the Enterprise asked Riccio how the double-scanning review had gone and whether the accreditation had anything to do with it. He confirmed that the review of CT protocols had been done, and that "quality data now demonstrates the rate of the second chest scan with contrast is aligned with the national average of 5.5 percent.

"The American College of Radiology accreditation for the CT unit is an exhaustive, multi-year process, and is separate and distinct from the Medicare quality data from 2008," Riccio said Tuesday.

"In addition to, but separate from the accreditation process, all Adirondack Health (the organization that includes AMC) staff members review their policies and procedures against nationally benchmarked quality data to identify opportunities for improvement on an ongoing basis."


Radiology accreditation

The American College of Radiology's gold seal of accreditation represents the highest level of CT image quality and patient safety. It is awarded only if a facility meets top standards after a peer-review evaluation by board-certified physicians and medical physicists who are experts in the field. Image quality, personnel qualifications, adequacy of equipment, quality control procedures and quality assurance programs are assessed as part of the review.

Amy Durkee, CT technologist at Adirondack Health, served as project leader of the accreditation process, providing the tests and data to meet the American College of Radiology's high standards.

In addition to CT, AMC's Medical Imaging Department holds accreditations in mammography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and PET/CT imaging.



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