By Annemarie Ciepiela Henton

Advances in medical imaging allow doctors to see inside the body with an unprecedented level of detail. As the individuals responsible for capturing the images, it’s crucial that radiologic technologists stay up to date on new equipment trends and best practices.

Henton A_2010 Annemarie Ciepiela Henton“Appropriate training is critical when introducing new medical imaging equipment and technologies, yet training is sometimes sacrificed in the busy, budget-driven health care environment,” said Kim Mullan, R.T.(R)(M)(CV), senior clinical education manager for Philips Healthcare. “By establishing best practices, departments can address inadequate training and overcome workplace challenges like equipment upgrades, staffing fluctuations and workflow changes.”

Recognizing the need for established standards in the medical imaging environment, a subcommittee of the ASRT Foundation’s Health Care Industry Advisory Council recently published “Patient Safety and Quality in Medical Imaging: The Radiologic Technologist’s Role.” The white paper provides best practices and recommendations to help medical imaging professionals provide safe, quality care.

Made up of representatives from radiologic science organizations and equipment manufacturers, the subcommittee discussed common medical imaging practice issues and identified solutions to improve patient care. The group shared information about medical imaging trends, the challenges associated with providing consistent and high-quality care and ways to improve the end-user experience for medical imaging professionals.

According to Donna Thaler Long, M.S.M., R.T.(R)(M)(QM), FASRT, chairman of the ASRT Board of Directors and radiography program director for Ball State University/Indiana University Health – Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, the resulting white paper includes recommendations that focus on workplace staffing, technology gaps and workplace culture relative to increasingly complex equipment. “It’s our job as radiologic technologists to provide a safe environment for the patient, and the seven best practices outlined in the document will help technologists provide consistent high-quality care.”

One of the key recommendations in the workplace staffing section of the white paper is developing department staffing policies and procedures to facilitate safe patient care, including giving technologists adequate time to learn about new and upgraded equipment. Another best practice encourages more collaboration between radiologic technologists and radiologists to improve the quality of patient care.

In addition, the committee identified computer literacy, basic principles of imaging with digital equipment and comfort level with technology as issues that challenge departments. To minimize gaps in understanding new technology, the white paper recommends that medical imaging departments address these issues when providing applications training for new and upgraded medical imaging equipment.

The group offered several recommendations to improve workplace culture in medical imaging departments, including maintaining quality management programs that encourage production of the highest quality images using the lowest dose possible. Managers should work with vendors to ensure that dosing and technical information about the examinations is documented and available, and that managers understand how to use analysis tools to improve quality.

One key issue the subcommittee identified is that the industry lacks consistent equipment terminology among vendors. As a result, equipment manufacturers have been working together to adopt consistent language and a standard document that will help vendors and managers develop a detailed applications training agreement. The purpose of the agreement is to outline both parties’ expectations before hospitals and clinics purchase new medical imaging equipment.

Long said the intent of the white paper is to provide a roadmap for success for anyone who takes part in the medical imaging process. “It’s important for technologists to take the information in the white paper and discuss it with their managers, radiologists and coworkers to improve the environment of patient safety in their respective facilities.”

The subcommittee’s mix of radiologic technologists and equipment applications trainers provided the group with different perspectives on common issues, said ASRT Chief Governance and Development Officer Liana Watson, D.M., R.T.(R)(M)(S)(BS), RDMS, RVT, FASRT. “The team’s diversity was crucial in its efforts to develop recommendations that meet everyone’s needs. They were able to come up with common-sense tactics that will help medical imaging departments increase their productivity and provide patients with improved care.”


Annemarie Ciepiela Henton is Public Relations and Media Specialist at the American Society of Radiologic Technologists.