News Flash for Radiologic Technologists!

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Big Changes are Big News

Blog by Lesa Mohr, BS, RT(R)(BD)(QM), AHEC Faculty

Keeping you updated on the latest changes that affect the way you maintain your license and credentials:

Homestudy  Changes

  • The required number of test questions per CE credit for homestudies has been reduced . You will find AHEC has already and is implementing these changes. (This is great)
  • You may now take the same CE homestudy over again in a subsequent biennium. This requires a new certificate, of course. Do you have a favorite? Check to see if it’s still approved and you can refresh your skills.

Advanced Level Exam Changes

  • Jan 1, 2016: You need 16 hours of structured education that pertains to the discipline prior to applying for the exam (Category A or A+)
  • Jan 1, 2018: those 16 hours must cover at least 1 hour of each major category of exam content
  • AHEC is providing these courses in live events and also through simulcast to your home or office via your computer. Register now for June, 2016 class.

News for CT Technologists

  • Joint Commission requires diagnostic CT technologist to hold advanced CT certification from ARRT or NMTCB, or hold:
    • A state license permitting CT exams & documented CT exam training
    • An ARRT registration & certification in radiography & documented CT exam training
    • An ARRT (N) or NMTCB certification & documented CT exam training
  • BY Jan 1, 2018 all CT technologists must have documented training preparing them for the advanced level exam
  • The new term is you must be “registry ready” is permeating the industry and is found in all job descriptions.

Radiation Protection and Politics

A petition to reinstate the required administrative rule from the Texas Department of State Health Services, Bureau of Radiation Control is gaining momentum. This administrative rule was published and went through the regular ruled making process in 2012-2013. A similar rule has been implemented in California, Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Oregon. A recommendation to the nation for implementation of similar rules in every state is currently in committee at the National Council for Radiation Protection.

The purpose of the rule is to protect everyone who has a procedure that requires the use of fluoroscopy by a physician or someone under the physician’s direction.1  The rule requires any non-radiologist physician to obtain an 8 hour class and 1 hour hands-on training in fluoroscopic radiation safety.  This protects them and you. Think of all the colonoscopies you have had or will have, the surgeries, and procedures your children and grandchildren will have.  Did you know that physicians that are not radiologists or radiation oncologists get zero hours of radiation safety or radiation biology in school or in their residencies?  It’s true.  This training was a new requirement since 2013, but not yet enforced. The deadline for receiving this training was May, 2015. Some Texas physicians did it voluntarily, but one professional physician association called in a political favor and got it indefinitely suspended.  Politics are a horrible reason to jeopardize a human life.  We can do what we can by signing the petition to get it reinstated.  This is very important as the switch to digital equipment and electronic imaging increased the radiation dose significantly. The proliferation of imaging outside the radiology department has increased exponentially. These rules did not happen as a result of over regulation. All you must do to verify the “why”for the rules is to Google radiation overexposure cases and you will find the documented overexposures. Since most of the time, the overexposures are not reported out of the facility, the actual numbers of potential unreported overexposures is mind-blowing. Most of the time, the patient doesn’t even know it.  The patient assumes that the health care practitioner is properly prepared in all aspects of their care.  Not all physicians have opposed the training requirement. Many physicians are appalled by this lack of equipment training and have participated and validated how the training has improved their practice.  For the ones who just don’t understand how dangerous radiation can be, please sign this petition.

And I can’t even talk about the cancer induction risk. It is estimated that the in the United States, the population receives more medical radiation than any other country. We know that there is great danger in that and many radiation reduction programs such as Image Gently and Image Wisely are reaching out to radiation professionals to reduce exposure dose as much as possible. Fluoroscopy is that “movie” type x-ray that is “ON” for as long as the physician steps on the equipment switch..  It is often overused at the patient’s and everyone else’s (in the room) expense.  Thanks for helping and feel free to comment on the petition website if you want to help.

This is the hyperlink:

http://tinyurl.com/mwbgj99

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Bang Head Here!

So here I sit on New Year’s Eve contemplating this year of 2014.  I will not be sad to leave it behind and as the eternal optimist I look forward to a better year in 2015.  It’s a surprise that we can get up every morning if we listen to the media. So much hate, so much violence, so much war, so much obesity, so much politics, so much sadness, so much disaster, so much of everything. How do we survive it all?bang head here

I have never been one to make many New Year’s resolutions. I don’t think waiting until New Year’s to decide to be a better person or any other infamous decisions is the right thing to do. If you are giving up your addictions, why wait? My addictions just continue anyway. That is why they are addictions, I have trouble giving them up and I don’t think you can use the word “addiction” and “healthy” in the same sentence.

I read and I hear that the country has turned the corner and that unemployment is decreasing. I also read and hear that inflation is under control? Has anyone bought bread and milk lately? Everything is going up and now gasoline is hitting the bottom.  I don’t think we have to worry about the major oil companies being “too big to go broke” like the banks were in 2008. They should have plenty of financial cushions from the prices we have been paying at the pump for the last few years. But, it the pundits are correct and our friends in the Middle East are doing this to lower the competition, something will surely “pop”.

I am surrounded by news that is not very comforting. I ignore it some days, and other days it affects my life as it does yours.  Tomorrow, I will choose to ignore it and enjoy my New Year’s parade and some football.  And maybe make a New Year’s resolution.

Broken Trail of Promises at the VA Hospitals

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It was reported last week by CNN that at least 40 veterans have died waiting for treatment at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System. They revealed the secret list that patients were shuttled to when they didn’t have time nor room to serve them They did this to hide the fact that thousands of veterans were waiting months to get an appointment. The whistleblower was a previous VA physician, now retired.  I have seen multiple reporting’s of botched treatments, long waits, dirty conditions, and overcrowding, but this is the most disturbing and striking so far.

Two years ago the information about misapplied radiation treatments in the VA in Pennsylvania began to surface. But, it was not reported in the news media for several months. Then  another story of a radiologist in Jackson, MS accused of not reading X-ray’s and CT images or reading them too fast in order to improve his productivity.  He was being paid by the number of procedures he interpreted. Following soon after came the report of overcrowding and unclean conditions at the VA facility in Washington, DC. In Pittsburgh, six patients died and 20 more became ill after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease due to contaminated water.  The hospital and staff knew about it, but the veterans and families were never told.

Now we are hearing about Phoenix and that the officials at the hospital not only tolerated this scheme, but openly defended it. The case of the Navy veteran, Thomas Breen, brings it all home as the VA hospital in Phoenix called one week after he died with his appointment time. The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 – 30 days. But the system is overwhelmed with the numbers requiring treatment and in order to meet the regulatory demands, elaborate schemes were used for reporting to Washington.

The Phoenix VA’s “off the books” waiting list has captured the attention of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee in Washington. The chairman is investigating delays in care that are reported across the country. At this time when veteran’s suicides are at an all time high, it is unthinkable that real human medical professionals could exhibit this behavior. The system is broken. The number of claims pending for disability compensation from the VA is also at astronomical heights. The normal processing time is more than 125 days. We owe these men and women our freedom!  We should be holding up our end of the bargain, both the legal one we promised, but also the moral promise that we would be there for them.

AARP Bulletin Advises Members Against Medical Tests

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I wonder how many patients Elizabeth Agnvall has sent to an early grave today? The latest AARP Bulletin screams the headline- Doctors say: Skip These Tests! “Doctors warn that some of the common medical tests routinely taken by Americans do more harm than good, waste billions of dollars and could endanger your health or even your life…” Are you kidding me?

On page 12 she lists yearly EKG’s, PSA for prostate cancer, yearly medical exams, annual PAP smears, bone density scans before age 65, colonoscopy after age 75 and etc. She puts forth the premise that prostate cancer is slow growing and you would die from something else first. Where did she get her information? Most people will not read the quantifications she puts in her article and will just read the sensationalist headlines. I can just hear it now “But, AARP says I don’t need to do that test now. It’s more harmful than helpful.” Yes, my mother’s voice still plays in my head. My mother got most of her medical information and diagnosis from Readers Digest. 

The author of the article did leave out the mammogram controversy and for that I am grateful. At least maybe that will not be affected. However, you need a yearly visit to get your order for the test.  Most people don’t need an excuse to NOT see the doctor. My family has lost 3 young individuals to cancer in the last 18 months because they didn’t see the doctor and ignored the symptoms. it is totally irresponsible for AARP to support such a premise. Are we all falling into the theory, becoming more and more prevalent, that if you are over the age of 70 you should be given the boot and make way for those that are younger.  More people than ever are living longer and having good quality of life. Technology is providing more and more answers and the average age of our population is moving forward (or is that upward?). Others believe this is a ploy and supported by the insurance companies to lower their costs and increase the profits. I do know that we will have a reckoning in this country when we believe that we can pay for everything that is wrong with the health of this nation with taxpayers dollars. Certainly there are some unnecessary medical tests being ordered and performed. Some physicians are more guilty than others. I heard one physician describe it as a bowl of Jello. You couldn’t get your arms around it. But, advising patients to stay away from the very tests and visits that could save their life is not the right way.

 

The Medical Marijuana Debate or Do You Need a Reefer?

The debate rages on in the media about the benefits and complications of legalizing medical marijuana. We have seen the long lines in Colorado already for those buying for recreational use. I have never used medically or recreationally but many of my friends and acquaintances have done so. I recently lost my sister-in-law to stage IV breast cancer and I tried to convince her to use it to increase her appetite and promote a feeling of well being. She refused as she could not change her attitudes either toward it’s use as amarijuana leaf and gavel medicinal herb. When you are dying, no one has the right to tell you what you should do or what you should use to medicate against the end result. One of my BFF’s from high school is now using it during her chemotherapy for bladder cancer. It is illegal in our state and she has a friend that sends it to her from one of those states where it is legal. How could I deprive her of that as she says it is what keeps her going with the nausea. I never asked her if she has a continual craving for Twinkies.

However, it was not ok for my children to self medicate for feelings they could not handle or other excuses they had. My opinion is vested in the 60’s and all that Cheech and Chong imprinted in all of us. Drugs, sex, and rock and roll was not my cup of tea. There is legislation pending in 15 states for 2014 concerning the utilization of medical marijuana. Will we or won’t we be facing this conundrum? If it were a cure or help for Alzheimer’s would we give to our parents who need it? My problem is the past…literally the past. I need to stop the 1960’s tape from playing in my head and move ahead. So, all I can do at this point is sit back and see what happens. But I have my Twinkies ready.

HealthGrades Report to the Nation for 2014

ImageI received my notice that the HealthGrades Report on hospital quality outcomes for 2014 was online.  If you are not well versed in the HealthGrades ratings, it may come as a shock that your hospital is not as good as you think it is.  Their hospital rating reports for specific procedures and diagnoses are compiled primarily from Medicare claim data, and it includes all hospitals that are Medicare participants.

Our nation generally agrees (97%) that having the correct information about our healthcare is paramount in making good healthcare decisions. According to a recent Harris Interactive Research survey, we are more likely to choose our hospital based on convenience/location (58%) and amount of co-pay (45%) than on quality outcome information (10%).

This year the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that expenditures for healthcare in the U.S. were $2.6 trillion and 17.9% of the gross domestic product. Of that expenditure, $814 billion went to hospitals and $515.5 billion went to physicians and clinical services.  We have been told that health reform will reduce healthcare spending over the next 10 years and lower our premiums.  If healthcare costs continue to rise why doesn’t the consumer shop for better, more affordable care?

HealthGrades was founded in 1998 and ever since they have been reporting on the quality and safety of our nation’s hospitals. The most recent survey just posted online at their website claims that in the time period 2010-2012 , an additional 234,252 lives could have been saved if all hospitals had operated at their highest rating level of 5 stars. HealthGrades rates the performance of hospitals on multiple procedures and diseases within the same institution.

The first thing I did was to go to their website and look up the hospital in my home town. What I found was frightening. My chances of survival in my hometown hospital with a heart attack were only a 2.  However, if I were a patient in the same hospital with pneumonia, my chances of a good outcome were a 4.  My hometown hospital only rated a 3 on the overall scale.  Not a very comforting thought. HealthGrades states that patients treated at a hospital receiving 5-stars in a particular procedure or condition have a lower risk of experiencing complications during a hospital stay than if they were treated at a hospital receiving a 1-star in that procedure or condition.  There also is a lower risk of dying during a hospital stay in a 5-star hospital than in a 1-star hospital. They also cite the national ratings average for procedures and conditions for comparison.

You should visit the website and find your healthcare facility. It is imperative that we, as consumers, must take charge of our own health,  and make informed choices on where and from whom we purchase our care.