Industry Representatives and the ASRT Working To Improve the Profession

Janet McEwen, M.A., CAE, ASRT Corporate Relations Director
Aug. 29, 2017
Health Care Industry Advisory Council

Cybersecurity, multiple modalities in the operating room, remote training methods using technology and practice encroachment — those were just a few of the topics discussed by 34 manufacturer representatives from 14 companies during the 19th annual Health Care Industry Advisory Council Summit, May 2-4, in Santa Barbara, California. The Summit is an ASRT Foundation program for equipment manufacturers to discuss important issues in the medical imaging and radiation therapy profession.

Cybersecurity

In 2015, cyberattacks cost the U.S. health care system $6 billion, according to Patrick Hope, executive director of the Medical Imaging Technology Alliance, the trade association representing medical imaging equipment manufacturers. What’s more, those costs were preventable, which is why MITA is working to improve cybersecurity, he said.

“Health care data is many times more valuable than many other forms of data,” he said. Hope also indicated that daily attempted breaches are proof of that value.

Manufacturers are also working to prevent data breaches. “Varian’s equipment is now cybersecure,” stated Sue Merritt, director of education and training for Varian Medical Systems. “We had white-hat hackers try to get into our systems, and we found and fixed the vulnerabilities.”

Multiple Modalities in the Operating Room

“Imaging equipment is no longer limited to the imaging department,” stated Mel Travers, manager of MRI applications for Hitachi Medical Systems America. Moving imaging systems into other parts of the hospital can create safety concerns, Mel said. “We need to develop templates, checklists and education to improve care and reduce problems.”

Diagnostic imaging equipment can enhance capabilities in the operating room, but health care providers must know how to properly protect themselves, their patients and the equipment, said Alex Dresner, clinical services specialist for MR for Philips Healthcare.

“Physicians sometimes bring materials into the operating room that are incompatible with MR equipment,” he said.

Another concern involves procedures for infection control and cleaning imaging equipment used in operating rooms, according to Lori Webb, product marketing manager for Virtual Imaging, a Canon company. Facilities routinely clean surgical tables with a large amount of cleaning liquids, Lori noted. Most medical imaging systems and their components can’t tolerate that kind of cleaning procedure, she said, and the systems also shouldn’t be exposed to “significant amounts of body fluids.”

“It’s important that operating room personnel understand the characteristics of imaging equipment, and for environmental services and engineers involved to ensure proper cleaning and maintenance,” she said.

Introducing new equipment to the operating room affects staffing as well, added Andrea Weaver, director of national clinical applications for Toshiba Medical. For example, a cardiac laboratory might bring in a neurology specialist and then ask cardiac interventional technologists to take images using neurology features they’re unfamiliar with.

“It’s important for health care institutions to make sure the equipment is used by professionals educated on the safe and effective use of that specific imaging equipment,” Andrea said.

Remote Training Methods Using Technology

Even after technologists and other staff members receive onsite applications training, equipment use questions continue to come, said Deba Das, remote clinical operations manager of customer education and training for GE Healthcare. To answer those questions, GE uses its Virtual Onsite Trainer (VOT), a mobile device that provides a telepresence for a remote trainer, Deba said.

“The VOT is not a replacement for onsite education; it is intended to help technologists deepen their understanding of the scanner after applications training,” Deba said.

Staff members can move the VOT around the facility so the trainer can see and answer questions about equipment. The VOT stays with the health care facility for 10 weeks after the in-person training has ended, so health care professionals can continue training with experienced applications specialists.

Devices like the VOT also reduce travel time for trainers, which is a big concern according to Nanci Wozniak, vice president of education services for Siemens Healthineers.

“Applications training is a stressful job,” Nanci said. “Burnout is a real issue, with specialists traveling up to 50 weeks a year to sites across the country. Having specialists assigned to provide live, virtual training may help improve applications specialists’ job longevity and career satisfaction.”

Practice Encroachment and Legislative Issues

ASRT was able to share important information with vendors about legislative and regulatory concerns. John Valencia, senior clinical education manager of the West Zone for Philips Healthcare, said he didn’t know that some states have no regulations to protect R.T.s, or are facing threats to existing licensure protections. “This is an important issue for us and, above all, for patients,” he said.

ASRT is getting the word out that the Society and its affiliates are monitoring and responding to licensure issues around the country, according to ASRT Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director Sal Martino, Ed.D., R.T.(R), FASRT, FASAE, CAE. “We will continue to represent the profession at the highest level,” Dr. Martino said. “We helped stop legislation in Oregon, Kentucky and Kansas that would have allowed nurse practitioners to supervise, perform or administer medical imaging examinations.”

What’s more, several states have proposed that independent licensing boards move together under another state agency or organization, noted Greg Morrison, M.A., R.T.(R), CNMT, CAE, ASRT's associate executive director and executive director of the ASRT Museum and Archives. “When that happens, the R.T.’s voice is no longer heard because the board is not independent and not made of a majority of R.T.’s,” he said. “The function of licensing does not necessarily go away, but the representation does.”

In another issue that affects patients, MITA’s Patrick Hope brought up a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that says the Veteran’s Administration hospitals can only purchase from veteran-owned businesses. The decision results in delays in care because the V.A. can’t purchase imaging or radiation therapy equipment directly from a major manufacturer. “The unintended consequences include higher costs for imaging equipment and the inability of the V.A. to get the latest and best for our nation’s vets,” Patrick said.

Productive Sessions and Fruitful Discussions

Council summits have resulted in white papers and other helpful documents on topics such as the role of radiologic technologists and radiation therapists in patient safety and quality in medical imaging, applications training partnerships, and acquiring new skills. More information about the Council and the white papers are available at foundation.asrt.org/hciac.

Varian’s Sue Merritt said she sees great value in the work done at Council summits. She reviewed the 2006 and 2016 ASRT reports on the radiation therapy workforce and noted that, after the Council published its white paper on radiation therapy safety, patient care improved. “The Council is making a difference,” she said.


This article was originally published in ASRT Scanner, Vol. 49, No. 6, Page 54.