The use of diagnostic imaging like CT and PET scans is an essential part of modern medicine for both diagnosis and treatment. Radiation, when delivered in the right dose, can be very effective. A CT scan, for example, can help doctors see cross-sectional images of the patient’s bones and soft tissues and reveal internal bleeding, tumor location, blood clot and infection.

To achieve these images, CT scans expose patients to much more radiation than a standard X-ray. Recent studies have raised questions about how multiple scans might be disadvantageous if not absolutely necessary. HCA set out to address this issue with an initiative called Radiation Right.

We brought together a team of radiologists and other physicians, radiology technicians, and physicists to review standard practices for delivering ionizing radiation to patients for both fluoroscopy and oncology procedures. After months of work, the team emerged with recommendations we’re currently implementing.  Of course, the first recommendation was to always ask the question, is an imaging study necessary to make the diagnosis or perform a procedure?  Further, if imaging were necessary, were there alternatives to ionizing radiation?

For each type of study or procedure, clinicians worked together to establish the lowest possible dosage of radiation needed for the highest quality images and created a scale showing the minimum and maximum radiation dosage. Beyond setting a goal for the lowest level of radiation possible, we added an additional layer of accountability. Each technician administering radiation must record the dosage after each use and submit that record for review after each shift.

Numerous steps have also been put in place to educate patients because they too play an essential role in patient safety. Radiation Right committees across HCA have posted flyers and set up websites to let everyone know about the changes we were making and to encourage patients and their families to ask questions.

Since we implemented Radiation Right company-wide, we’ve seen a 15% reduction in the overall dosage used across our system. Thanks to this effort, we can assure our patients that they’re not getting more radiation than they need when a doctor determines that c imaging is needed.