As both the government and medical consumers demand quality improvements to medical care, finding ways to objectively measure it can be daunting. But NightHawk Radiology Services believes it has found the way with its new Client Peer Review (CPR) program.

The program, which was launched this month and is part of the company’s Quality Assurance Program, measures the effective communication and reporting accuracy based on the impact on patient outcomes. The CPR program also allows radiology practices to benchmark against peers as part of improving their standard of care.

While not the only quality assurance program available to radiology practices, what makes the CPR different, according to Timothy Myers, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer for NightHawk, is its emphasis on how an interpretation affects the patient instead of the difficulty of reading the study. “We thought that the other way was upside down,” Myers told Tech Edge. “We don’t think there’s a study that’s too difficult to interpret. We believe everything needs to be seen.”

When NightHawk is asked to review a group’s quality, it will typically pull a 1% random sample of each radiologist’s cases. These cases will be reviewed by a committee of NightHawk’s top performers—a group of 16 working radiologists—or by a specialty radiologist if the reviewer needs additional back up. The fact that the reviewers are still active and working NightHawk radiologists is important. “The one thing that radiologists want to know is if the reviewer is truly a peer and still in the game,” said Myers.

The way studies are pulled can vary from group to group, and depends on how the practice managers or hospital administrators interpret Joint Commission and government rules. For instance, a radiologist who handles several modalities may have 1% of his cases pulled but in proportion to his use of modalities, e.g. 25% CT, 50% MR, 25% DR.

But the program is more than just looking at diagnostic accuracy. The reviewers also look at the report and how clear and understandable it is. This can be a key component in how patient care is affected. Myers noted that if a fellow radiologist can’t understand a report, it is probable that a clinician outside the radiology suite will be even more confused and the patient’s care will suffer as a result.

The program is currently available to practices throughout the country. Myers says that, for new customers, it can take between 30 to 60 days to start the program depending on the group’s IT capabilities.