TRA Medical Imaging is one of just two practices in the state of Washington to achieve the distinction of being recognized as a Diagnostic Imaging Center of ExcellenceTM (DICOE) from the American College of Radiology (ACR).
The DICOE program is an achievement that goes beyond accreditation to recognize best-quality imaging practices and diagnostic care with a comprehensive assessment of the entire medical imaging enterprise, including structure and outcomes.
“We go above and beyond general safety and HIPAA regulations,” says Performance Improvement Manager Carol Doherty. “ACR looked at things like our quality management policies and whether our doctors are reporting according to the highest standards.”
In order to receive this elite distinction, facilities must be accredited by the ACR in all modalities provided and in which the ACR offers an accreditation program. Another requirement is to participate in the Dose Index Registry® and General Radiology Improvement Database, as well as Image Wisely® and Image Gently® reminds Doherty.
When TRA merged with Medical Imaging Northwest (MINW) in 2017, MINW had already achieved DICOE certifications at its outpatient facilities: Diagnostic Imaging Northwest located in East Pierce County. Diagnostic Imaging Northwest is an alliance with TRA Medical Imaging and MultiCare Health Systems. DINW was the first to be designated DICOE in the state of Washington.
As part of the certification process, an ACR team comprised of a physicist, a radiologist, an administrator and a technician visited three of TRA Medical Imaging locations for site inspections. “They asked comprehensive questions and interviewed us by assessing multiple areas of quality, safety, procedures and personnel,” says Doherty. “Everything had to be reviewed and inspected.”
Dr. Ata Alijani, Medical Director of Outpatient Imaging, comments that undergoing such intense scrutiny has been beneficial for the practice. “The higher level of care we were providing wasn’t really recognized or standardized. Going through this process allowed us to gain recognition for what we were already doing and helped us see what we needed to improve on.”
Working collaboratively to standardize systems brought TRA’s radiologists and administrators, coming from what had previously been two separate companies, together around a common goal, Alijani notes. “With ultrasound, CT and MRI, DICOE required us to put protocols on paper and perform the same way across all sites. That brought the two cultures together and built a sense of community.”
Doherty noticed a similar impact. “We took the best practices from both companies and moved them over. As a company, we had to work really hard to make sure that all of our policies were aligned.”
Director of Outpatient Imaging, Dave Hulse also points out: “The ACR, founded in 1924, is one of the largest and most influential medical associations in the United States.”
The ACR devotes its resources to making imaging and radiation therapy safe, effective and accessible to those who need it. Its 36,000 members include radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists, interventional radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians. “Our radiologists and staff strive to be leaders in providing high quality and personalized service with advanced imaging, subspecialized practice, and dedication to patient satisfaction,” Hulse states.
The biggest beneficiaries, however, are the patients. “Our clients can have an overall confidence that we’re doing everything to a higher standard,” he says. “It just shows that we are top of the line as far as imaging goes.”
Doherty agrees. “For patients, knowing that the staff and the radiologist are more than qualified helps ensure that their visit is going to run smoothly, and the results are going to be accurate,” she says. “We go that extra mile.”
Although safety has always been a priority, the DICOE certification process has created even greater improvements, says Alijani. “By having ACR observers and DICOE specialists give us additional pointers, we realized that even with some of the things we thought we were doing well, there was room for improvement.”
One example is quality assurance as it relates to CT scan safety. TRA Medical Imaging practitioners had always had an emphasis on making sure that equipment was safe and keeping radiation doses low. Now, says Alijani, the awareness has heightened even further. “We’re constantly performing peer reviews on ourselves to make sure we meet the standards we’ve set.”
The DICOE certification lasts for three years, at which point TRA Medical Imaging intends to re-apply. “It’s an opportunity for continuous improvement,” says Doherty. “We try to stay current with every single advancement that comes through to make sure we’re aware of the latest and greatest. Re-upping for DICOE will be another chance to make sure we’re on top of everything.”
For more information, please visit the TRA Medical Imaging website.