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It’s Not Just Equipment: Multiple Factors Make for Quality Diagnostic Testing

A recent study by AXREM quoted a decrease in overall radiology equipment spending in the UK. The study points out that as spending decreases, investments in new equipment could decline, contributing to the use of aged equipment.  According to a 2017 survey of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) by the Clinical Imaging Board, 58% of MRI systems were more than five years old and 29% were more than 10 years old. This study has gained ample attention in the radiology community. With significant cuts to Medicare reimbursements and equipment costs only rising, we are likely facing a similar trend here in the U.S.

Although it may be easy to speculate a direct correlation between aging MRI equipment and subpar outcomes, it is One Call’s belief that such a view is misguided. Even with older MRI machines, many independent testing facilities opt to have their hardware updated with new coils and software, allowing for excellent image quality.

While the age of a center’s diagnostic equipment is important, it is only one aspect in a series of interdependent variables that drive quality. Ultimately, a multitude of factors must be considered to understand the quality of an individual diagnostic testing center.

These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The type of equipment in use
  • Magnet strength of equipment
  • Type of modalities offered
  •  Qualifications of the radiologist or experience of the technologist
  • Treating physician preferences
  • Location and access to center
  • Direction of care regulations

It is important to note that while spending on diagnostic imaging equipment has waned in the U.S., there are entities that exist to ensure the quality delivered by testing facilities are diagnostically sound. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved organizations, like the American College of Radiology (ACR), award accreditation to facilities that prove high practice standards and deliver quality imaging.

To obtain accreditation, centers must go through a rigorous peer-review and evaluation process performed by board certified radiologists and medical physicists. They review the center’s image quality and procedures, personnel qualifications, quality control procedures, adequacy of facility equipment, and quality assurance program. Although becoming accredited is a voluntary process, CMS has adopted regulations that require centers to have standing accreditations to bill for services, and some states have done the same for workers’ compensation.

While the age of radiology equipment is pertinent to quality imaging, we believe it is important to look at all factors that can drive better outcomes for diagnostic patients. Being keenly aware of these factors, One Call has been judicious in the development of our network, ensuring comprehensive and ongoing credentialing of our providers and their radiologists. In fact, the vast majority of One Call’s diagnostic imaging network is accredited by one of the four CMS designated accreditation organizations while all other have gone through a stringent peer review process. By establishing quality review programs and monitoring quality concerns closely, One Call continuously fine-tunes its network. Maintaining these practices allows One Call to better place patients at the most appropriate center while delivering diagnostically sound results for improved outcomes.

For more information about One Call’s Diagnostics offerings, please contact diagnostics@onecallcm.com.

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