DelVecchio: Medical Radiation Should Preserve, Not Threaten, Health

Posted March 5, 2010 at 10:27am

Last week’s medical radiation hearings of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health left more questions than answers after several hours of testimony.

[IMGCAP(1)]Foremost among them: How can there be no national standards for the qualifications of individuals who expose us to ionizing radiation through radiation therapy, CT scans, X-rays, mammograms and other medical imaging and therapeutic procedures?

Good question. And an even more important question would be, What would it take to institute such a program?

Fortunately, one of the tools to address the problem is already here. A national certification program that defines the qualifications for these individuals through educational, ethics and examination requirements is administered by ARRT, the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. However, certification is voluntary. Although most employers require certification, not all of them do — and even among those that require initial certification, not all require that the credential be kept current.

Although a voluntary mechanism exists to assure qualifications, how can patients be assured that the individual exposing them to ionizing radiation has met and has continued to meet credentialing requirements? The answer is making its way through Congress in the form of H.R. 3652, the CARE bill, or the Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility, and Excellence in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Act.

The CARE bill would amend the Public Health Service Act and the Social Security Act to make medical imaging and radiation therapy treatment safer, more accurate and — because of fewer repeat procedures — less costly. The CARE bill is supported by the Alliance for Quality Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy, in which ARRT’s nearly 300,000 registrants are represented, along with 200,000 imaging and therapy professionals, physicians and scientists.

The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health is expected to reconvene its medical radiation hearings in coming weeks. We strongly recommend that Members support the CARE bill to ensure that the individuals delivering radiation therapy, producing the CT images and manipulating the new digital radiography equipment are qualified to do so.

Michael DelVecchio is president of the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.