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Connecticut Hospital Association Confronts Radiation Dosage via Hospitals and Health Networks

New data repository system is tracking and aggregating statewide radiation exposure in patients and will be evaluated this summer

Amid concern from U.S. health organizations over the last few years, the Connecticut Hospital Association is taking steps to implement a statewide data repository of how much radiation a patient is being exposed to during such radiological procedures as CT scans. The repository could lead toward benchmarking appropriate levels of radiation dosage nationwide.

The CHA claims its dose management repository is the first of its kind in the United States. Regions of Canada and Europe, where the government controls health care, have systems in place, according to Mary Reich Cooper, M.D., chief quality officer of the CHA and senior vice president of clinical services.

She says awareness of radiation dosage became prominent around four years ago, when organizations such as the American College of Radiology and the American Board of Internal Medicine and its Choosing Wisely initiative were presenting radiation dose guidelines to help patients navigate potential overuses of care. Risks of overexposure include a potential of cancer as well as injury to the epidermis, such as skin erythema. The ECRI Institute, which guides its hospital members on how to use medical devices safely, labeled radiation dose a “Top 10 Health Technology Hazard” in 2013 and 2014.

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Jason Launders, director of operations in the Health Devices Group at the ECRI Institute, says tracking software is a step in the right direction, but there are issues to address. For one, there aren’t standard names for the protocols. If one hospital reports dosage as a  “head scan” and the other a “brain scan,” it reads differently in the databases even though it’s the same thing.

Also, it is hard to measure what are recommended levels of appropriate radiation dosage. A heavier patient, for example, may require more radiation to penetrate through their skeletal system or any fat surrounding their organs. “If I give less radiation and am unable to visualize the tumor, that’s much more of a consequence than my giving more radiation and, over time, increasing the risk of radiation-related cancer,” Cooper says. 

Launders calls the reporting “a data-mining research project of gigantic proportions,” so there’s an issue of manpower. And lastly, there’s variability between new and old radiology machines.

Mani Adib, senior project officer in the Health Devices Group at ECRI Institute, says newer machines produce images with lower doses of radiation but doctors have become accustomed to the high-quality images on older machines, asking to increase dosage.

Read more at Connecticut Hospital Association Confronts Radiation Dosage 

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