Partnering for Safety and Education

May. 5, 2015
Health Care Industry Advisory Council SummitAt the heart of every partnership beats the trust that individuals and organizations place in the value and benefit in creating quality relationships. For instance, all arenas of medical imaging, radiation therapy and patient care have directly benefitted from the alliances shaped in the 17 years since the ASRT Foundation created the Health Care Industry Advisory Council (HCIAC). To accomplish this feat, HCIAC brings together corporate representatives to identify critical issues in the radiologic sciences and to create solutions for the industry, professionals and the patients they serve.

“HCIAC companies pay dues that help support Foundation scholarships, research grants and other programs,” stated Sal Martino, ASRT CEO. “We provide the venue and structure for discussing issues important to all of us, and their funds advance the profession.” 

Envision a field where, instead of one team being crowned the victor, all HCIAC member companies are acknowledged as helping create a safer workplace and procedures by coming together to discuss the critical role of the medical imaging and radiation therapy professional in patient safety and quality. This topic, like the profession itself, is multilayered in its ties to patient safety, efficiency and the health care environment. The approach is even more expansive, covering everything from radiation protection to effective training.

An Ongoing Commitment to Safety

At the 2013 summit in Santa Barbara, California, the group considered the exponential growth of technological complexity, with keynote speaker Eric Ford, Ph.D., citing the 12-step radiation therapy process in 1970 that has expanded to 300 steps, “with each step an opportunity for error.”

“Applications training is taking so much longer now,” stated Nanci Wozniak, vice president of education services at Siemens Healthcare. “PET-MR takes six weeks of dedicated time for the basic applications training. We know that’s a challenge for health care institutions with lean staffing that need to keep their equipment in use for patients.”

At last year’s summit in Florida, 49 members and ASRT Foundation representatives built on that knowledge by looking at hybrid equipment, a skills assessment tool or template for applications training, and started considering how to measure the return on investment of applications training. Education, training and certification comprise a triad of needs where new technology is concerned.

“Hybrid equipment and technology are advancing more quickly than our ability to educate technologists. I’ve seen that firsthand as vice president of clinical services for Hologic,” said Robin Hillman, M.H.A., R.T.(R)(M). “For the past two years, the ASRT Foundation’s Health Care Industry Advisory Council has worked to identify issues associated with hybrid technology, such as PET-MR, and is sharing information with important constituents, including organizations that certify radiologic technologists.”

Even though it is becoming more critical for R.T.s to be certified in hybrid technology and receive updated training on new technologies, educational costs are the first to be cut, noted Liana Watson, chief governance and external affairs officer for ASRT and the ASRT Foundation, in a Vimeo overview of last year’s meeting.

Patient Safety and Evolving Technology

Patient safety and the R.T.’s role in ensuring protection from start to finish of a procedure or treatment underlies an ongoing commitment by the ASRT and ASRT Foundation to support the profession through funding or conducting original research. It also encompasses the global outreach efforts of RAD-AID, with the ASRT Foundation sponsoring ASRT members for programs in Malawi, Haiti, India, Nicaragua and Kenya. In research and guidance on safety issues, the ASRT Foundation published a white paper in 2006 on acquiring clinical skills that reinforced lifelong learning and the need for mentoring. As the technology evolves, so does the focus of efforts by the ASRT and HCIAC. In 2013, a radiation protection survey sent to radiographers, cardiovascular and vascular-interventional technologists and registered radiology assistants about their practice found that:

• Only a third of those polled always document shielding.
• Approximately 15% of facilities do not have a radiation safety policy they offer to patients, or the respondent did not know if a policy was available.
• Up to a third of respondents had not received applications training on dose-limiting software.
• One third of interventional technologists in this sample did not adjust parameters based on patient age and 12% did not adjust the parameter to account for body habitus.

On the positive side, the majority of those polled considered themselves well-versed in radiation safety, knew and followed institutional radiation safety policies, and took the lead in radiation protection.

How Research and Practice Blend

A 2012 white paper on safety in radiation therapy and a paper titled “Commitment to Succeed” indicate how all these forces come together through the ASRT, ASRT Foundation and HCIAC partnership. The white paper calls for best practices in having only registered radiation therapists deliver treatment and assigning two therapists per machine at all times. The HCIAC Subcommittee on Patient Safety and Quality in Radiation Therapy also recommended that sites evaluate the workflow and staffing levels to determine when fewer than two radiation therapists are providing treatment on each machine and “correct as soon as possible."

In addition, the vendors were tasked with reporting whether the Commitment to Succeed paper assists in training as a group effort shared by medical imaging and radiation therapy personnel, the health care institution and the equipment manufacturers. To learn more, download the paper.

What You Miss by Not Attending the Summit

Although you can download these papers, survey results and meeting results on the ASRT website, it takes attending the summit to fully comprehend how all these issues, organizations and people come together. For instance, one of the speakers last year pointed out that hybrid technology is increasing the need for dual certifications and costs, based on the need for two trainers.

At an open forum last year facilitated by Watson, vendors spoke about recruiting and retaining applications specialists, the Affordable Care Act and its effects, the shift from full-time to part-time and per diem technologists and how this affects applications training, and whether vendors can create tools that help facilities meet new hospital accreditation requirements. The ASRT Foundation also started a new feature last year: roundtable discussions on vendor credentialing, credential retention for vendor clinicians and a skills assessment tool or template for all vendors. This year, attendees will be discussing recruiting and retaining top talent, and more about vendor credentialing.