For many in the medical community, minimum standards of care are simply not enough. Medical physicists, like many others, are deeply concerned with providing the best possible care to patients, often looking for ways to go above and beyond. The American College of Radiology (ACR), an accreditation body that regulates safety, quality assurance, and testing requirements for radiotherapy and other radiology programs, offers discerning medical physicists a means to demonstrate their high standards of care to patients and colleagues.
For years, ACR accreditation has been seen by many in the industry as “nice to have.” However, Apex Physics Partners, always seeking to raise the standard of medical imaging across the country, strongly urges all medical physicists to seek accreditation. Although the accreditation process may seem like a burden for an already-busy practice, raising a practice’s standards can yield benefits that make its pursuit worth it for any medical imaging practice and its patients. This article will explore some of the basics of ACR accreditation, how it changes patient care for the better, and how to pursue it.
The Basics of ACR Accreditation
Radiotherapy experts and other medical physicists know how critical medical imaging is to the diagnosis and treatment of the most common deadly ailments. Because accurate medical imaging can mean the difference between missing and identifying a life-threatening illness, it stands to reason that medical physicists would want to hold themselves to the gold standard.
The ACR as an Accrediting Body
Here’s where the ACR comes in. To quote its website, “ACR Accreditation is recognized as the gold standard in medical imaging. By displaying the gold seals of ACR Accreditation, you can demonstrate to your patients, payers and referring physicians that you are committed to providing the safest and best quality care possible.”
The ACR is the most widely recognized medical imaging and radiation oncology accrediting body, boasting an unequaled evidence base supporting its accrediting programs. Since 1987, more than thirty-six thousand facilities have sought accreditation in the form of gold seals for the following modalities:
- Breast MRI
- Breast ultrasound
- Nuclear medicine and PET
- Radiation oncology practice
- Stereotactic breast biopsy
The Impact of ACR Accreditation on Patient Care
Although politics, finances, and relationships may influence how a medical imaging practice conducts business, patient care should remain at the core of every practice. The reason that ACR accreditation is attractive to insurance payors and referring physicians is because it is clear and tangible evidence that a practice has the stability, accountability, quality, and dedication to safety required to provide top-quality care to patients.
Advantages of ACR Accreditation
On the business side, ACR accreditation can provide a medical imaging or radiation oncology practice with a marketing advantage. The ACR gold seal is widely recognized throughout the medical community, and many medical imaging practices consider it an asset in marketing materials. It’s likely to catch the eye of referring physicians and ultimately increase a medical imaging practice’s roster of patients.
Of course, accreditation is more than just a decoration for a medical imaging office. It offers medical imaging staff and departments clear standards and guidelines that are widely acknowledged throughout the industry as the most conducive to quality care. Accreditation also offers practices an incentive to regularly and rigorously test CT scanners, MRI machines, and other equipment.
An ACR-accredited practice is more likely to attract talented staff members and less likely to make costly or dangerous mistakes. Broadly speaking, the pursuit of ACR accreditation itself affords a medical imaging practice the opportunity to be more thoughtful about standards of care and develop a culture that’s deeply committed to safety and quality.
Securing ACR Accreditation
ACR Accreditation demands adherence to high standards in safety and quality. As such, it’s not easy to achieve. It can be expensive and involves multiple inspections to ensure the site meets all regulations.
Getting Started with Accreditation
Once a practice identifies the modality or modalities for which it would like to receive ACR accreditation, it can begin the application process on the ACR website. The ACR has a robust accreditation support portal where practices can discover all the information related to accreditation. Here is a basic overview of the ACR accreditation process:
- Facility submits an application and fee.
- ACR accepts the application, and the forty-five-day testing window begins.
- Facility submits the testing package, including test images.
- ACR reviews the testing package.
- ACR issues a final report.
- Facility reviews the final report, noting areas for potential improvement.
- ACR sends the facility a three-year certificate and accreditation tool kit, and the ACR adds the facility to the ACR-Accredited Facility List on its website.
The ACR typically completes accreditation evaluation within sixty days of receiving test image submission. Eight months before the end of the three-year certification period, the ACR will invite the practice to repeat the process and renew its certification.
Improving Medical Physics Nationwide
As part of its mission to increase the quality of medical physics practices across the nation, Apex Physics Partners strongly urges its practice groups to seek out ACR accreditation. Apex even goes a step further, offering free ACR accreditation support to its practice groups. We do this not just because it’s good for business but because it’s the right thing to do for our patients.
We have deep experience working with ACR-accredited practices, and we can help those aspiring to accreditation perform equipment testing in accordance with ACR standards. Reach out today to learn more about what it means to be a partner with Apex and how to get started with ACR accreditation.
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