This is the first of a series of blogs designed to help introduce you to the concept of medical physicists and help you understand how they fit into your department and how you can help pay for them.
Worried about the costs of meeting requirements for XR-29 CT dose standards? You aren’t alone. As organizations scramble to make sure their equipment and software is up to snuff, they may be overlooking a key player who can help with equipment and proper dosing: a medical physicist.
A medical physicist can assist with many of the technical details necessary to keep your imaging department certified, accredited and compliant so that you can receive full payment from Medicare. In fact, RadSite’s MIPPA Accreditation Program (MAP) requires a medical physicist on site to inspect all CT, MRI and nuclear medicine machines at least annually to ensure compliance with CMS requirements.
What is a medical physicist?
A medical physicist is a scientist trained in physics (including imaging and radiological physics) as well as basic medical, clinical and radiobiological sciences. Medical physicists work in radiology, radiation oncology and nuclear medicine. This scientist can ensure your diagnostic imaging department is fully compliant in regards to equipment, radiation safety and dosage levels and team members.
Properly calibrating equipment
As you know, diagnostic imaging equipment is very expensive. Whether you need a completely new system or a software upgrade, a medical physicist can help you evaluate and select the right equipment so you can get your money’s worth. Your equipment needs to be examined and calibrated annually at the very minimum by a medical physicist. In some imaging modalities, for example, if you don’t remain in full compliance, you can lose your certification, accrue fines or even face imprisonment, depending on the level of infraction.
Establishing and maintaining a safety program
An important concern for any diagnostic imaging department is establishing and maintaining a radiation safety program. Thankfully, a medical physicist can serve as your Radiation Safety Officer. They can establish and oversee ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) and Administration of Personnel Radiation Monitoring programs. They can also supervise the preparation, handling and disposal of radionuclides, set up the correct response to emergency situations such as spills and many other aspects of patient and personnel safety.
Empowering team members
Your entire program needs to be compliant in order to meet regulations. From the radiologist requesting a specific test to the technologist who physically performs the test, you need assurance that everyone understands their role and is playing by all of the new rules. Creating a team of competent, certified individuals allows for trust and communication that can affect outcomes in a positive way. For instance, consulting with imaging physicians and others using the equipment so that clinical imaging procedures are optimized for the patient is a role of the medical physicist. The medical physicist can tie all roles together and serve as a catalyst for continuous improvement.
Optimizing clinical procedures
In the end, the patient is the reason that a diagnostic program exists. A medical physicist can advance this program by improving upon existing clinical imaging procedures in many areas. For example, knowing the correct, specific doses for patients and organs is crucial to patient safety. They can also consult with patients who are concerned about radiation exposure. Finally, a medical physicist can ensure adherence to imaging protocols and even assist physicians in the evaluation of quantitative studies.