New ACR mammography database promises to improve practice quality

June 3, 2009

The American College of Radiology announced June 3 the creation of a national database that will allow mammography facilities to compare their practice performance and outcome data with other facilities.

The American College of Radiology announced June 3 the creation of a national database that will allow mammography facilities to compare their practice performance and outcome data with other facilities.

The database, set for launch in July, is the newest addition to the National Radiology Dose Registry. The National Mammography Database (NMD) will be based on BI-RADS. It aims to improve mammography practice quality through site-to-site comparisons of key practice parameters, according to the ACR.

"One of the best methods to improve life-saving early breast cancer detection is through a national approach to breast imaging, with data we can achieve only through a unified mammography database," said Dr. Carl D'Orsi, chair of the BI-RADS committee of the ACR.

Participation in the NMD will not be required under ACR mammography accreditation criteria, but it will enable facilities to meet the Mammography Quality Standards Act's medical audit requirements in a standardized manner, according to ACR spokesperson Shawn Farley. The information can help a facility figure out how it performs relative to other practices and identify areas where more resources are needed to improve or maintain quality of care.

In essence, the NMD will capitalize on data mammography practices already collect under federal mandate, but it will allow facilities to upload data to a web-based system integrating BI-RADS software. The data will provide benchmarks on individual practice processes as well as patient outcomes such as cancer detection rates, positive predictive values, and recall rates.

Any facility where mammograms are performed can participate, and participants will receive semiannual feedback reports comparing important medical audit benchmark data.

"The NMD conveniently and accurately produces clinically meaningful mammography audits, with outcomes reported for individual radiologists and for the entire mammography facility, accompanied by comparisons to concurrent benchmark data from similar radiologists, facilities, and the entire U.S." said Dr. Edward Sickles, chair of the National Mammography Database committee of the ACR.

The mammography database is part of the ACR's National Radiology Data Registry. The NRDR is designed to assist imaging facilities with quality improvement using data allowing regional and national comparisons with similar practices, according to the ACR. The NMD is the newest of several programs under the NRDR umbrella, which includes other efforts:
CT Colongraphy Registry. It collects data deemed critical to evaluating CTC procedures. Information contributes to the evaluation of colonography as an alternative to colonoscopy.
National Oncology PET Registry. NOPR is a collaboration between the American College of Radiology Imaging Network, the ACR, and the Academy of Molecular Imaging. The registry contributed to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service's decision in April to greatly expand coverage of FDG-PET cancer imaging. The program has been redirected to answer questions about FDG-PET's ability to gauge the early effectiveness of cancer therapies.
General Radiology Improvement Database. GRID collects information about imaging facilities. The information is then aggregated to establish benchmarks for quality improvement. Key measures include report turnaround times, patient wait times, and patient satisfaction.

The fee for using NMR depends on the number of radiologists in the practice. See fee schedule.