Health care is a highly regulated industry, but medical imaging isn't as regulated as one might expect. Most of the regulations center around breast imaging, which was recognized nearly two decades ago as an area that needed to be standardized and regulated at the federal level.

But imaging professionals are starting to see an increased focus on safety, particularly in efforts to avoid overexposure to radiation, says Dr. Matthew Morgan, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Utah Health Sciences Center.

During an opening general session at the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine's Annual Meeting, June 2-5 in National Harbor, Md., Morgan and four colleagues from across the nation will take attendees through a glimpse into the coming era of increased regulation. The session, "The Ghost of Radiology Future," includes a skit based on the story of Scrooge to demonstrate why imaging professionals must accept and prepare for change.

"A doctor with old habits and perceptions will have a chance to see where he or she could get lost in the future if they don't make changes," Morgan says.

The changes are coming because for financial and safety reasons, the industry needs to do a better job policing the utilization of imaging exams, he adds. A recent study at Children's Hospital Boston, for instance, showed that a CT exam may not necessarily be better than observation for treating a child with a head bump.

Regulation also may be necessary to standardize confusing terminologies for measuring radiation exposure levels. These terminologies often are just as confusing for physicians ordering imaging exams as they are for patients, Morgan says. He likens the confusion to traveling through Europe before adoption of the Euro.

But today, too many physicians and radiology technicians already don't consider what levels of radiation exposure a patient already has had. Morgan expects patients eventually will demand to know as they become more aware of the issue.

"I don't think radiology will fly much longer under the radar or that people will ignore how many scans they've had," he says.

Joseph Goedert writes for Health Data Management, a SourceMedia publication.

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