‘Learn The Things You Don’t Know That You Don’t Know.’

This, in essence, is the entirety of point-of-care safety standards for MRI.

Hey, you, MR technologist! Make sure you know what you’re supposed to know to keep people safe around MRI.

Make no mistake, as someone who spent a decade in college (which included a Masters degree and about half of a 2nd Bachelors), I’m a huge fan of education. What I’m adamantly opposed to – when it comes to MRI safety – is education without any standards or benchmarks, which is precisely where we find ourselves today.

The title of this post really isn’t far off the mark of what the current expectations of safety are. Regulatory, licensing and accreditation bodies seem to be unanimous in their concern that explicit MRI safety standards (even for education) would be ‘burdensome’ to the provider. As a result, many MRI providers find themselves in a position where they aren’t provided support tools to enhance safety, with the rationale that a ‘good tech is all you need.’ But at the same time, nobody has defined what MRI safety knowledge makes the ‘good tech’, well… good.

In a few weeks I’m going to be at the ACR ‘Maximizing Value in Radiology through Quality and Safety Improvements‘ meeting. At that meeting, I’ll be presenting information from a paper written by Dr. Emanuel Kanal and me; a retrospective analysis of FDA adverse event reports on MRI. The data is pretty grim.

Since 2004, reported MRI adverse event reports are up to a number more than 4-times what they were. Of the MR-specific reports, just over 92% of them fall into 3 categories, each of which could be significantly attenuated if existing ‘best practice’ guidance was simply adopted as required standards. Our analysis found that 80% of these adverse events had an explicit, measurable best practices that would have stopped them, and that doesn’t even include benefits to be gained from ill-defined standards for ‘provide MR safety training.’ Presumably enhanced training would both reinforce the explicit performance measures (enhancing the effectiveness of mitigating those 80% of events), and would likely diminish the 20% remainder that weren’t directly combated by the explicit measures.

So while the trend data is very disconcerting, the good news is that we already have the tools to reverse the alarming growth in MRI accidents. This patient safety initiative is so extremely ‘shovel ready’ that it could be deployed with little more than a few words amending existing accreditation and license standards.

In the meantime, imaging providers are slashing staffing ratios, cutting out travel allowances for conferences and training, seeking out less-experienced MR personnel (who will work for a lower salary). So while we admonish MR techs to ‘learn what you don’t know that you don’t know,’ we’re simultaneously taking away the tools that they might actually need to accomplish this near-impossible task.

In the weeks ahead I’ll be able to share more of Dr. Kanal’s and my research, but the take-away is already apparent…

We will continue to injure our MR patients, visitors and techs at increasing rates unless the accrediting bodies (ACR, TJC, and IAC), the regulatory authorities (FDA and individual State departments of health) and 800-pound gorilla payors (CMS) pick up and codify the practice standards that have been laid at their feet.

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

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One thought on “‘Learn The Things You Don’t Know That You Don’t Know.’

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