Technologists face strengthened error accountability rule

May 17, 2006

A new rule in the ethics guidelines governing technologists will mandate that they immediately report errors to the appropriate supervisor. The change reflects the increased focus on accountability in healthcare in general and the emergence of “supertechs” in particular.

A new rule in the ethics guidelines governing technologists will mandate that they immediately report errors to the appropriate supervisor. The change reflects the increased focus on accountability in healthcare in general and the emergence of "supertechs" in particular.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists adopted the new rule as an interim measure last year to coincide with the first graduating class of Registered Radiologist Assistants (RAA), technologists with expanded responsibilities. The rule, open for public comment since then, will likely be formally adopted in July, according to Tom Kraker, ARRT assistant director.

Rule number 22 calls for RTs to immediately report information to their supervisors concerning an error made in connection with imaging, treating, or caring for a patient. Waiting a week to report such an incident would be in violation of the rule, Kraker said.

Technologist errors that the ARRT has had complaints about in the past include preparing the wrong substance for injection or having a contaminated sterile field. Errors must be reported whether or not they result in injury. Last year, the organization received and reviewed approximately 1900 complaints, filed by employers, state licensing agencies, police departments, the FDA, and coworkers. About 50 technologists were consequently sanctioned.

The types of sanctions range from reprimand to revocation:

  • public reprimand with no service limitations

  • ineligible for certification, permanent or time-limited

  • suspended registration for specified period

  • summary suspension, immediate and permanent

  • revocation, permanent or time-limited

A problem encountered by the ARRT has been hospitals allowing employees to resign, rather than be terminated for errors. The violation is closed to the public, and the ARRT doesn't have subpoena power to enforce its own disciplinary action.

"It's not fair to the public, because that individual can go across the street and get a job fairly quickly, without any scrutiny of his or her behavior," Kraker said.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

ARRT toasts milestone, tweaks MR and ultrasound certification

Saying 'I'm sorry' could stem tide of malpractice claims

Harmful errors in radiology suite top national database