Starting in January of 2009, the drought of MRI safety regulation will begin to end.
It surprises many that the Joint Commission has no specific MRI safety accreditation standards. Surveys of accredited MRI providers have, over the past many years, focused largely on general safety standards, adapted for the MRI environment. Historically, a surveyor’s check for a non-magnetic portable fire extinguisher was the only MRI-specific safety check provided by the Joint Commission.
Despite the fact that many MRI-specific safety articles, recommendations, and, most recently, Sentinel Event #38 have been offered by the Joint Commission and its allied Joint Commission Resources educational arm, there have not previously been specific MRI safety standards for accreditation, and it is only through the new Environment of Care requirements that MRI safety will become an implicit standard for Joint Commission accredited facilities.
Starting this coming January 2009, inpatient and outpatient accredited facilities will need to abide by the new Risk Management provisions of the Joint Commission Environment of Care standard. The Standards Improvement Initiative will require facilities to prospectively define the physical hazards within the facility and develop specific responses to manage and mitigate those hazards.
The new standard specifically cites Sentinel Event Alerts as one external reference that must be considered in defining risks. For MRI, this automatically means Sentinel Event Alert #38. And since SEA #38 draws so heavily from the ACR Guidance Document for Safe MR Practices: 2007, it only follows that the ACR Guidance Document is the underlying industry standard document for defining MRI safety. Another external reference that specifically addresses MRI physical hazards which should be used as a basis for risk analysis is the VA MRI Design Guide.
What do Sentinel Event Alert #38, the ACR Guidance Document, and the VA MRI Design Guide all recommend? Well, lots of common elements, actually, but one of the key recommendations is for the use of ferromagnetic screening (click here to download a PDF document that outlines many of the recent recommendations for ferromagnetic detection).
While it is starting with the Joint Commission Environment of Care, my expectation is that MRI-specific patient safety requirements will spread to other accreditation requirements, building codes, and standards of practice. This will include not just recommendations, but requirements for the use of ferromagnetic detection for MRI pre-screening.
Over the next few months, all Joint Commission accredited MRI providers will need to review the standards of practice in the ACR Guidance Document for MR Safe Practices. Specific actions must be taken to identify, document, and respond to the unique hazards in the MR environment. One of those immediate actions should be planning for ferromagnetic detection at your MRI facility.
If you have any questions about the new MRI safety standards, the best-practice recommendations for ferromagnetic equipment siting, and incorporating these vital safety instruments in your MRI screening practices, I recommend that you heed the advice of the ACR Guidance Document, the VA MRI Design Guide, and other safety practice documents. If you still have questions about these standards, I invite you to contact me.
Tobias Gilk, President & MRI Safety Director