A Systems Approach to Evaluating Ionizing Radiation: Six Focus Areas to Improve Quality, Efficiency, and Patient Safety

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Ionizing radiation is an essential component of the care process. However, providers and patients may not be fully aware of the risks involved, the level of ionizing radiation delivered with various procedures, or the potential for harm through incidental overexposure or cumulative dose. Recent high-profile incidents demonstrating the devastating short-term consequences of radiation overexposure have drawn attention to these risks, but applicable solutions are lacking. Although various recommendations and guidelines have been proposed, organizational variability challenges providers to identify their own practical solutions. To identify potential failure modes and develop solutions to preserve patient safety within a large, national healthcare system, we assembled a multidisciplinary team to conduct a comprehensive analysis of practices surrounding the delivery of ionizing radiation. Workgroups were developed to analyze existing culture, processes, and technology to identify deficiencies and propose solutions. Six focus areas were identified: competency and certification; equipment; monitoring and auditing; education; clinical pathways; and communication and marketing. This manuscript summarizes this comprehensive, multidisciplinary, and systemic analysis of risk and provides examples to illustrate how these focus areas can be used to improve the use of ionizing radiation. The proposed solutions, once fully implemented, may advance patient safety and care.

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