GAO to CMS: Establish Imaging Accreditation Standards

June 5, 2013

CMS should establish minimum standards and oversight for accreditation of advanced diagnostic imaging services, a recommendation hailed by industry groups.

CMS should establish minimum national standards and oversight for accreditation of advanced diagnostic imaging services, according to a federal recommendation hailed by industry groups.

“There are significant differences among the accrediting organizations, which arise from CMS’s lack of minimum national standards,” according to a recent Government Accountability Office report. “As a result, important aspects of imaging, such as qualifications of technologists and medical directors and the quality of clinical images, are difficult for CMS to monitor and assess.”

The GAO recommended that CMS:

  • Determine the content of and publish minimum standards for accreditation
  • Develop an oversight framework for evaluating organization performance
  • Develop more specific requirements for accrediting organization audits
  • Clarify guidance on immediate-jeopardy deficiencies.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA) required imaging suppliers be accredited by an organization approved by CMS. The law also directed GAO to evaluate the requirement, and GAO found that CMS relied on three accrediting organizations to establish their own standards for quality and safety. The GAO developed a list of nine standards to assess those elements. However, GAO found differences among the accrediting organizations’ approaches, because of a lack of national standards.

The American College of Radiology, the most widely recognized accrediting body, applauded the report.

“If accreditation is actually going to achieve a national standard of quality and safety for patients, there have to be legitimate, meaningful standards in place,” Paul H. Ellenbogen, MD, FACR, chair of the ACR Board of Chancellors, said in a statement, adding the organization looks forward to working with Congress and others to implement the recommendations.

The ACR has stringent standards for medical imaging equipment and personnel, Ellenbogen said. The accreditation requires physicians meet stringent education and training standards, the imaging equipment functions properly, and the technologists be appropriately certified.

The Access to Medical Imaging Coalition (AMIC) also praised the report, noting the organization championed the provisions for accreditation in MIPPA of 2008.

“The value of education and certification standards, accreditation, and clinical decision support will encourage the proper use of MR, CT, PET and nuclear cardiology services while maintaining patients’ access to life-saving diagnostic and screening services,” AMIC executive director Tim Trysla said in a statement.