Transparency & Disappearance

Ironically, those two words – so similar on the surface – often turn out to be antonyms. Today I’m going to attempt to provide you with some transparency relative to a recent disappearance here on this site.

First, a little background. I am neither beholden to, or have an axe to grind against, any of the prominent (potential) players in MRI safety. They’ve each provided me opportunities to advance the cause, and rebuffed me. In the interest of transparency, here are my relationships with both the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Joint Commission (TJC).

Dr. Emanuel Kanal, MRI safety guru extraordinaire, has been the ACR’s MRI Safety Committee chairperson since the group was formed in 2001. He invited me to serve on that committee in 2006, and an ACR executive group, which holds veto power over committee appointments, approved me. I participated on that committee and am one of the authors of what became the 2007 ACR Guidance Document for Safe MR Practices. When Dr. Kanal successfully lobbied the ACR to support an update to the Guidance Document last year, the prior committee was disbanded and each individual was subject to re-appointment. I was renominated by Dr. Kanal, but my reappointment was blocked by the ACR executive group. I do not serve on the current incarnation of that committee (which is working on an update to the ACR Guidance Document due out later this year).

Through the ACR, I got one superb opportunity to influence MRI safety. I thought I would get more than one… but it was just one. I have no engrained personal interest in lifting up the ACR, so when I recommend the Guidance Document, it’s because I believe that this product is worth my support. Similarly, when I criticize the ACR with respect to MRI safety (as I did, pretty unabashedly, here), it is because I believe that they can do better, and not some petty personal resentment. I did, after all, get that superb opportunity through them.

Switching gears, my relationship with the Joint Commission is strikingly similar to my relationship with the ACR. Over the years, Joint Commission Resources (their educational arm) has asked me to write several pieces for them on MRI safety for various publications. They’ve also interviewed me for another publication (a piece that almost didn’t see print because of a disagreement between me and TJC’s Standards and Survey Methods division about what SEA #38 meant to an accredited provider’s internal risk assessment). I also had the opportunity to provide an introduction to MRI safety as surveyor training to TJC’s ambulatory accreditation surveyor corps after TJC was selected as an approved radiology accrediting body under the MIPPA law. That’s the good (or, at least ‘mostly good’).

TJC is a large organization, and while I’ve gotten along successfully with their education group, spoken at one of their conferences, and provided services to their ambulatory group, the ‘mother ship’ of TJC is their hospital accreditation organization. I’ve butted heads, usually privately… though sometimes not, with the hospital side of the organization. Most recently I’ve been informed that TJC can not accept any of my services, paid or volunteered, because of a potential appearance of a conflict of interest. Effectively, I’ve been ‘blackballed’ from the Joint Commission. While there is much more that I would like to accomplish with and through TJC, I’ve already managed to do a fair amount with them. As with the ACR, I think I’m on even terms with TJC… no debt… no malice.

I lay this groundwork to get around to the main gist of this post. A few weeks ago I posted, and then, within a week, took down the TJC companion piece to the ACR critique.

“Why would you give preferential treatment to the Joint Commission… or did you go off the deep-end and say something you regretted?”

I think that the TJC piece was equivalent to the ACR piece. They’re both accurate and critical of certain actions within each organization. I don’t think that anything in either piece is inflammatory, or hurtful. I didn’t write anything that I regret having put down in bits. I know that several regular readers of this blog did see the TJC piece, and I invite any who did read it to post with any thoughts they had that it was / wasn’t appropriate and fair.

“So, why’d you take it down then?”

Those of you who know me know that I’m something of an MRI safety evangelist. I have said and done (foolishly and unrepentantly) things that were not in my own personal best interest when I felt that they advanced MRI safety. I have zero interest in having an “I told you so” moment, either in elevating myself or in denigrating healthcare / radiology institutions. I want improvement. I want results. And that’s why I took down the Joint Commission critique.

“Ummm, OK… But how did taking it down advance those improvements or results?”

For a long time, years in fact, TJC has been toying with the idea of substantive MRI safety programs, but there are both internal and external hurdles to overcome to allow this to happen. Every historical effort towards implementing MRI safety on the hospital side of the organization has atrophied and died.

Very shortly after I posted the Joint Commission MRI safety critique, I learned that my friend and colleague, Dr. Kanal, was arranging a meeting with TJC to re-spark the conversation about advancing MRI safety within TJC’s hospital accreditation program. While I have no direct involvement with TJC and Dr. Kanal in these conversations, Dr. Kanal and I did collaborate for the non-hospital MRI safety introduction for the Joint Commission, and I didn’t want the critique I wrote, coupled with any legacy of prior collaboration, to poison Dr. Kanal’s current efforts. So I took the post down.

If I felt that there were any parallel efforts underway at the ACR, and that taking down that post would advance those efforts, I’d pull it down in a heartbeat, too. To my knowledge, however, there aren’t, so until I see an advantage to taking it down, it stays and I invite everyone interested in this topic to read it, here.

And if the situation with the Joint Commission changes, and the current effort on MRI safety slips into the comfortable, well-worn precedent of failure, know that the post isn’t gone, it’s only disappeared, and will reappear if / when it’s absence isn’t more constructive.

Ultimately, it’s all about affecting change. We expect that we have thousands, perhaps tens-of-thousands, of MRI adverse events occurring every year in the US, and the vast, VAST majority of these are readily preventable, or would be if we had enforced standards. That’s what I’m after.

And this is me, being as transparent about the whole situation as I can be.

Tobias Gilk,
President & MRI Safety Director — Mednovus, Inc.
Sr. Vice President —

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