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The Road Ahead:

The Future of Radiology Needs Radiation Safety Programs



Medical imaging techniques are a necessary – and sometimes lifesaving – component of our modern healthcare delivery system. However, the use of medical imaging with high-dose radiation, including CT scans and complex fluoroscopy procedures that utilize continuous X-ray beams, has soared in the last 20 years. According to the National Council on Radiation Protection & Measurements, our radiation exposure has increased sixfold between the 1980s and 2006. In fact, interventional radiology physicians receive more radiation dose than nuclear power plant workers per year on average.
While patient health and safety are priorities for any healthcare organization, the industry has spotlighted radiation dose hazards for healthcare staff in recent years, encouraging more stringent radiation program management. Several advocacy organizations are speaking out against the hazards of too much radiation, including Image Wisely and Image Gently in the U.S., and now the EuroSafe Imaging Call to Action in the EU. Additionally, numerous international guidance documents have been developed, such as ICRP 105 (Radiation Protection in Medicine), which is a positive sign that the industry is moving in the right direction. The latest to join the initiative is the EU industry regulation and upcoming European Commission standards that will closely mirror the 2015 U.S. Joint Commission rules on patient dose, with expanded requirements for clinical decision support. While all of these coalitions are promising, structured radiation safety programs are needed to ensure patient exam ordering is justified and dose levels are optimized.
As more hospitals begin to focus on patient dose they need to design and implement a process for this new data into their existing radiation safety programs. However, understanding your radiation dose data is only the beginning. The first step to improving any process is to understand what you have and where it came from. Most healthcare providers have not historically used patient radiation dose information in any meaningful way as a quality benchmarking tool. As the transition unfolds, organizations will increasingly require enhanced interoperability and IT integration of both staff and patient dose data to accurately capture, track and measure information to assess quality long term.

The time is now for manufacturers, regulators and healthcare providers to work together to develop and implement cost-effective, realistic and meaningful programs to monitor radiation dose. As an expert in imaging informatics, Philips has found that while hospitals want to comply with the new standards introduced by the Joint and European Commissions, support is still needed to develop and sustain these programs. Establishing partnerships that can offer overarching support – including education on best practices and how to best manage dose data, as well as technical support in performance quality for improved dose optimization – will become critical for the future success of radiation safety programs.


Philips’ philosophy for effective radiation safety programs revolves around the following key principles:

  1. Understand: Establish technical evaluation and analysis of the care providers’ radiation protection program for a baseline view of the current radiation dose management protocols.
  2. Integrate: Enable customized tools and solution implementation to drive improvement in managing radiation exposure to patients and staff.
  3. Educate: Enable a collaborative learning environment within the healthcare institution to make appropriate training available so that staff knows how to use the tools they have invested in.
  4. Improve: Use industry benchmarking and other comparative analysis in collaboration with professional support to drive improvements and lower dose levels to both patients and staff.

The future of radiology needs effective radiation safety programs – this reality is not going away. However, if implemented strategically, the road ahead will be a quality journey for organizations to address challenges through constant evolution and improvement. By following best practices, building strong partnerships, and investing in the right solutions, healthcare organizations can position themselves not only as compliant with industry regulation, but as pioneers in safer diagnostic imaging.


Dominic Siewko

Clinical Marketing Manager

As the Clininal Marketing Manager for DoseWise Solutions, Dominic is responsible for leading and coordinating radiation health issues globally for all Philips Healthcare Imaging Systems.


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