Radiation Therapists, Technologists In Demand

Demand for radiation therapists outgrew that for all other diagnostic imaging modalities, according to Allied Consulting Inc’s newly published review of recruiting incentives for health professionals.

The company’s 2003 Review of Allied Health Care Professional Recruiting Incentives shows that in 2001, the company conducted 44 searches for radiation therapists. In 2002, however, there were 104 searches conducted, a 131% increase. According to the company’s research team, that rising demand is partially a response to the aging population and the increasing survival rate of older patients with heart disease and other illnesses. Because of improved treatments, many older patients are surviving various types of illnesses until they eventually develop cancer.

Figure. Salary growth rate for imaging professionals from 2001 to 2002.

The company also notes that radiation therapy is no longer the exclusive province of large city hospitals. Now, treatment centers are being built in smaller communities looking to improve care for an aging patient base. There are more than 4,500 sites of radiation therapy service in the United States, with only 14,000 licensed radiation therapists available to fill positions. Therefore, a continued strong demand for radiation therapists is expected for the next 3 to 5 years.

The survey also showed an increased demand for radiologic technologists. In 2001, Allied conducted 89 searches for radiologic technologists. In 2002, the company conducted 159 searches, an increase of 78%.

In general, the rise in demand for radiation therapists and imaging technologists is reflected in the salary offers being made to recruit them. For example, average salary offers made to radiation therapists increased from $49,500 in 2001 to $60,500 in 2002, a 22% growth rate. Salary offers for dosimetrists grew from $66,000 in 2001 to $78,000 in 2002, an 18% growth rate, while offers made to physicists, radiologic technologists, vascular technologists, and CT technologists grew by 11%, 9.5%, 7.5%, and 6.4%, respectively.

Allied also tracked perks and benefits offered to candidates in addition to salaries. In 2002, signing bonuses were offered in 81% of the searches, up from 74% in 2001 and 66% in 1998. The average bonus offered to all health professionals was $2,500. Other standard perks included paid relocation, continuing education credits, and insurance benefits.

The 2003 Review is based on 1,262 search assignments in hospital, clinic, long-term care, and HMO settings.

CMS Set To Issue Positive Coverage Determination

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) intends to issue a positive national coverage determination expanding coverage of magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) to include imaging of the renal arteries and the aortoiliac arteries in the absence of abdominal aortic aneurysm or aortic dissection, according to Diane Millman, JD, counsel for the National Coalition for Quality Diagnostic Imaging Services.

CMS found that the evidence that it examined during its literature search was adequate to conclude that MRA was reasonable and necessary for imaging in these instances. When clinically warranted and supported by medical necessity, contrast angiography may be performed as an adjunct imaging modality to MRA.

Islet Cell Transplantation Successful in Treating Diabetes

New data presented at the recent annual scientific meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology in Salt Lake City indicated that transplanting healthy, insulin-producing islet cells by infusion into the portal vein to the liver enables uncontrolled type I diabetic patients to become insulin free.

Richard Owen, MD, an interventional radiologist at the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, presented the data based on a study of 48 patients who had 90 transhepatic portal vein islet cell procedures for diabetes. During the procedure, the islet cells become rapidly engrafted into the liver and secrete insulin almost immediately. According to Owen, the study shows that the interventional radiology delivery technique provides reliable and safe access to the liver.

Of the 48 patients in the study, 22 had two transplants, 10 had three transplants, and 16 had a single transplant. Successful islet cell infusion was achieved in all cases by the interventional radiologist. All of the patients who received more than 9,000 islet equivalents per kilogram became insulin independent. One year later, 21 of the 26 patients that have received the full number of islets (81%) are insulin free and metabolically stable.

This treatment is still being studied and is reserved for patients who have unstable diabetes to such an extent that the risks of transplantation are considered less than the risks of uncontrolled diabetes.

The Elegant Radiology Report

An accurate, precise radiology report plays an important role in conveying the radiologist’s findings to the referring physician. However, “radiology training programs place appropriate emphasis on content [of reports], but style often receives little attention,” according to Coakley et al? in the February issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology. The authors provided examples of style guidelines in place at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, to enhance the brevity, clarity, and pertinence of reports.

In the interest of brevity, the style guidelines suggest avoiding a string of sentences beginning with the phrases “there is” or “there are,” and instead condensing and rephrasing.

To provide clarity, for instance, the phrase “significant adenopathy” should be avoided because “adenopathy, by definition, is abnormal and therefore significant.”

In the interest of pertinence, the guidelines recommend, where there are nonspecific or equivocal findings, that radiologists offer advice on the appropriate next test rather than a list of differential diagnoses. And finally, the guidelines suggest that impressions be ordered by importance of the findings rather than following an anatomic order. “It is disconcerting to read an impression that begins with 1. Small hiatus hernia, 2. Gallstones,’ and so on, only to end with 9. New bone metastases,'” the authors wrote.

L. Litchfield

Industry News

Royal Philips Electronics has received a Medical Design Excellence Award in the radiological and electromechanical devices category for its SONOS 7500 ultrasound system with Live 3D Echo, which allows cardiologists to obtain real-time, 3D images of the beating heart…Confirma Inc, Kirkland, Wash, has entered into a partnership agreement with Sectra Imtec AB, Sweden, under which Confirma’s CADstream system will be fully integrated into Sectra’s PACS. In addition, Confirma has entered into a research agreement with the Robert M. Berk Magnetic Resonance Institute at the University of California, San Diego…The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), Chicago, has opened an office in Washington, DC, to strengthen the society’s position on public policy issues related to information technology. The office is located at 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 1300. The association also recently issued a declaration calling for a summit and immediate action supporting the universal implementation of electronic health records. In the declaration, Bridging the Chasm: Realizing a Universal EHR, HIMSS pledges to convene the public and private sectors in an effort to achieve improved patient safety through EHRs. To date, more than 70 information technology companies and health systems have signed the declaration. It is posted on the HIMSS Web site, at www.himss.org…Konica Medical Imaging, Wayne, NJ,? has announced that its parent company, Konica Corp, will merge with Minolta Co on August 1. The resulting corporate group will adopt the slogan, “The Essentials of Imaging”…Health Level Seven Inc (HL7), Ann Arbor, Mich, has announced that IBM has become the latest HL7 benefactor member. As such, IBM will help provide the financial support needed for HL7 to continue developing its industry-critical standards and work products…Easy Pax Inc, Toronto, has begun integrating x-ray film digitizers from Eastman Kodak’s Health Imaging Group into its teleradiology solutions…InSight Health Services Corp, Lake Forest, Calif, has announced that one of its wholly owned subsidiaries has completed the purchase of 13 diagnostic imaging centers located in Southern California, formerly owned by the Comprehensive Medical Imaging subsidiaries of Cardinal Health Inc. In addition, the company, along with president and CEO Steven T. Plochocki, were named finalists in the first American Business Awards competition…SourceOne Healthcare Technologies Inc, Cleveland, has entered into an agreement to distribute the Planmed Inc line of mammography products. The 3-year contract is expected to generate more than $30 million in total sales for SourceOne…Eastman Kodak Co has been ranked 22nd among the “100 Best Corporate Citizens” for 2003, according to Business Ethics magazine. The ranking is based on an analysis of 1,000 companies…American Medical Sales Inc (AMS), Hawthorne, Calif, and R2 Technology Inc, Sunnyvale, Calif, recently announced a primary distribution contract for motorized viewers. AMS will now be the primary provider of Mammolux” motorized viewers for R2 Technology’s ImageChecker? CAD system, which aids in the earlier detection of breast cancer…Siemens Medical Solutions, Malvern, Pa,? has announced that its United States service organization achieved ISO 9001-2000 certification, an internationally recognized standard for quality.

Room At The Top

Leonard Berlin, MD

Officials from the American College of Radiology (ACR), Reston, Va, recently testified to members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee during a hearing on reauthorization of the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) of 1992. ACR members D. David Dershaw, MD, professor of radiology at Cornell University Medical College and director of breast imaging at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and Leonard Berlin, MD, professor of radiology at Rush Medical College and chairman of the Department of Radiology at Rush North Shore Medical Center, Chicago, briefed the committee members on the ramifications of requiring a certain number of the MQSA-mandated CME credits to be acquired through self-assessment tools, such as ACR’s Mammography Interpretive Skills Assessment, and called for a detailed review of existing MQSA regulations to determine if there is a burden without benefit. They also indicated the need for assurances that the results of any self-assessment requirement would not be discoverable in the event of a legal proceeding. Committee members acknowledged the regulatory and legal burden on the nation’s mammographers and agreed that it may be time to review existing regulations. In other news, the ACR has appointed Marie Zinninger as its liaison to the National Cancer Advisory Board. She retired from the ACR last December after a 25-year career…Royal Philips Electronics, the Netherlands, has added two new executives to its Medical Systems division. Randy E. Dobbs is the new CEO for the North American sales and services region, and Barbara D. Franciose is the new global CEO for the ultrasound business line…InSite One, Wallingford, Conn, has announced that Jim Champagne has joined the company as senior vice president. As part of InSite One’s senior management team, Champagne will lead the development of new strategic goals and directions for the company…Hamid Tabatabaie, president and CEO of AMICAS Inc, a Boston-based PACS provider, has been named a finalist in the Best Executive category for the American Business Awards.