JCAHO and MRI Safety… Are They Serious?

As you may be aware, the Joint Commission has historically offered nothing in the way of MRI-specific safety standards. MRI may be the only service at an accredited provider that had not even one specific JCAHO standard for patient safety. Yes, all of the broader patient safety standards apply to MRI as they do to the rest of the provider, but with so many unique risks, wouldn’t you think that they would have at least one MRI-specific safety standard?

This isn’t to say that surveyors haven’t made their way to MRI, either shadowing a patient or as an intended visit to simply see the department. And this isn’t to say that the surveyors haven’t reviewed and commented upon MRI safety issues in the suite. What I do intend to say is that without a substantive backing of codified standards, Joint Commission surveyors ‘from the hip’ comments on MRI safety will be irregular and not very effective. But has all of this been changed – today, January 1st, 2009 – for accredited MRI providers?

That’s right, today the 2008 revisions to the Joint Commission’s Environment of Care (EC) standard are in effect. And while the JC has not been promulgating new MRI-specific standards, a major change just slipped in through the back door.

The new EC standard requires that accredited providers perform risk analyses using, as a minimum standard, all previously released Sentinel Event Alerts (42 as of this writing). One of these is the MRI Sentinel Event Alert (#38) which details a number of MRI safety objectives.

Once the risk analysis is completed for MRI, a corrective plan must be developed (complete with concrete objectives and a time line for implementation) and each incremental step documented.

This, at least, is how the new EC standard reads on MRI safety. Whether the Joint Commission surveyors will be taking the safety criteria of their own Sentinel Event Alert seriously should be revealed in the next few weeks as the first surveys of 2009 are completed.

While not every MRI provider is Joint Commission accredited, there’s no denying JCAHO’s influence in the broader industry. The Joint Commission now has the opportunity to not only to promote MRI safety at their accredited providers, but to the entire MRI community.

They have the criteria (SEA #38), they have the accreditation standard (Environment of Care), now the only question is ‘are they serious about MRI safety?’

Tobias Gilk, President & MRI Safety Director
Mednovus, Inc.

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