Local, State, Federal

ACR Proposes Separate Accreditation for Hospitals

The American College of Radiology (ACR), Reston, Va, is calling for hospital-based advanced imaging facilities to be separately accredited with the same rigorous standards that it is now offering for outpatient imaging facilities.

As the radiology community faces more scrutiny of protocols and quality controls, CMS is requiring new accreditation standards for outpatient facilities. Thus far, however, CMS is not requiring hospital imaging facilities to meet the same standards.

Starting January 1, 2012, all advanced imaging outpatient facilities that provide MRI, CT, PET, and nuclear medicine services must obtain accreditation through the ACR, The Joint Commission, or the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC) in order to receive Medicare reimbursement.

Hospitals are not subject to the same process, however. Currently, CMS only requires hospital advanced imaging facilities to be approved as part of the overall hospital accreditation, which is mainly provided by The Joint Commission.

While the radiology department is part of that overall inspection, the ACR said that these radiology department inspections need to have more depth.

James H. Thrall, MD, FACR

?The goal is to bring the same level of expertise and the same depth to those inpatient accreditations that we have offered over the years for breast imaging and for outpatient centers that have chosen to voluntarily undergo ACR accreditation,? said James H. Thrall, MD, FACR, ACR Board of Chancellors chair and radiologist-in-chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

While facilities may question the need for an additional, focused department accreditation, there is precedent for having another body accrediting a particular department. For example, the College of American Pathologists (CAP) undertakes the accreditation of a substantial number of hospital pathology laboratories instead of The Joint Commission, and its accreditation is recognized by CMS.

Thrall explained, ?The reason that [the CAP accreditation] has resonated among pathologists is the level of expertise and the knowledge of what?s relevant and what?s important that comes from engaging with a professional organization as opposed to The Joint Commission.?

Likewise, the ACR is also attempting to raise the bar for assessing quality in facilities. For example, the ACR?s outpatient accreditation program includes testing each modality with phantom images, which objectively ensures that each device is calibrated correctly. Thrall said that the same higher standard will be incorporated into the proposed inpatient accreditation.

Naturally, a separate ACR accreditation will represent an additional complexity for hospitals, but Thrall noted that hospitals have already demonstrated the willingness and the capacity to have the extra accreditation for their pathology laboratories.

As for cost, Thrall said that the College has yet to put a pricing model on the proposed accreditation process. However, he also noted that there would be price advantages in economies of scale where the hospital has multiple imaging devices of the same kind and where its data can be transferred in a single tranche.

In terms of when and if the ACR will be able to become a separate CMS-approved hospital accrediting body for radiology, Thrall said that its proposal is not something that will happen overnight, but that the ACR is already engaging with CMS.

?It?s a bureaucratic process,? said Thrall. ?There?s no functional or operational impediment to doing it tomorrow, but we need to work with CMS to put the program in place.?

?Tor Valenza