Over the past 56 years, the estimated number of annual radiologic and nuclear medicine procedures has increased about 15-fold, bringing with it higher doses and exposure to radiation. The FDA is currently concentrating efforts on protecting young patients from the effects of such exposure. Children are more sensitive to radiation exposure and, because they are so young, have a longer time for the effects of exposure to develop into cancer.
Children’s of Alabama, located in Birmingham, considered these risks when evaluating their own operations. As the third largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S., and the only standalone pediatric hospital and Level I pediatric trauma facility in Alabama, the radiology team observed that 20 percent of the medical image CDs sent to Children’s by referring facilities were unreadable. As a result, young patients were frequently rescanned and exposed to additional radiation – simply because the original medical image could not be read.
Determined to find a better way, the team looked into ways to reduce the amount of radiation that children are exposed to when a radiation-emitting scan is required. They decided to join Image Gently®, an initiative designed to raise awareness about methods that reduce the dose of radiation in pediatric patients. Image Gently has become a guiding force for setting standards and continuing education for pediatric imaging. Children’s of Alabama has joined individuals and facilities from across the globe to “image gently” when performing medical imaging scans on children.
As discussed in a previous blog post, California and Texas have taken the legislative lead in mandating radiation dose reporting with extensive dose regulations and specific dose thresholds. Other states are expected to follow suit, and individual hospitals have begun setting standards and protocols with the guidance of Image Gently.
To meet these regulations and improve patient care, pediatric providers, like Children’s of Alabama, are joining cloud-based medical image-sharing networks because they drastically reduce the need to rescan a child, as the patient’s files are stored on the network and cannot be broken or lost as so often happens with a CD. Since joining an image-sharing network, the organization has expedited patient care, increased their network to more than 200 providers, and diminished CD usage by 60 percent, resulting in a large reduction of unnecessary repeat scans.