As a result of federal legislation passed in 2014 to provide incentives to improve patient safety, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in January 2016 will begin reducing reimbursement for computed tomography (CT) scans performed on equipment that doesn’t meet certain requirements. George Mills and Andrea Browne of The Joint Commission discussed the upcoming changes and their implications for HTM professionals at the AAMI conference held in Denver June 5–8, 2015.

The Federal Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 stipulates that as of next year, payments for CT scans that fail to meet the four components of the standard known as NEMA XR 29-2013 will be reduced by 5%. In 2017, the payment penalty increases to 15%. Although the change largely applies to hospital outpatient departments, some equipment may need to be replaced or rotated for use elsewhere in the hospital if software upgrades cannot adequately address the requirements. Browne estimates that up to one third of outpatient CT machines may need to be replaced, according to a report on the AAMI website.

The standard includes the following criteria:

  • Post-exam capture of radiation dose information in a structured reporting format, according to the DICOM standard
  • Use of preloaded adult and pediatric CT imaging protocols, which can be selected by the operator
  • Built-in, preimaging safety checks that alert the machine operator if the estimated dose exceeds radiation guidelines
  • Automatic exposure control that adjusts radiation dose based on the size and shape of the imaged body region

AAMI and TJC will host a webinar to familiarize HTM professionals with the NEMA standard and its implication for hospitals. The session has not yet been scheduled. For more information, visit the AAMI website.