Bill hopes to bring tougher standards for RTs nationwide

by Brendon Nafziger, DOTmed News Associate Editor | August 09, 2010
Media reports prompt action
by lawmakers
Widely publicized errors from CT scanners and radiation therapy have pushed the U.S. Senate to call for uniform training standards for radiologic technologists and other technicians who handle high-tech medical equipment.

On Thursday, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced a bill that would require mandatory minimum education and certification standards for radiologic technologists. These standards would have to be met by staff for health centers to qualify for Medicare payments.

DOTmed News has also learned of reports of a broader medical imaging bill in development this summer that would incorporate the Senate legislation.

The bill currently at hand, the Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility and Excellence in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy bill (S. 3737), is nearly identical to a similar "CARE" bill introduced into the House in September, according to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists, which endorses both bills.

"In light of all the reporting that's been done on radiation therapy mis-administration and CT radiation overdoses during brain perfusion scans, ASRT feels the best way to address some of these programs identified by Congress is to enact CARE," ASRT's vice president of government relations and public policy Christine Lung told DOTmed News.

Over the past several months, the New York Times has run profiles documenting radiation therapy, and CT scanning, mishaps.

The bill would govern nearly everyone involved in planning, performing and checking up on advanced imaging scans and radiation treatments. This includes medical physicists, medical dosimetrists, cardiac cath technologists, MR technologists, radiologic techs, radiation therapy assistants, limited scope operators and others.

However, unlike the House bill, it would exempt those doing certain ophthalmologic and vascular access procedures. These two procedures have "limited" medical scope, according to the ASRT.

The aim of the bill is to bring uniformity to patchwork legislation, with each state deciding its own credentialing requirements for RTs.

"States license different aspects and different professions, and there's no consistency across the country to judge an individual's qualifications," Lung said.

For instance, California requires radiographers, nuclear med techs, radiation therapists and limited scope operators to be licensed by the state. But in neighboring Nevada, the only profession required to get a license is a mammographer, Lung said.