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Restarting non-urgent imaging in a post-pandemic world

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | July 20, 2020
Business Affairs X-Ray
From the July 2020 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Implement infection control measures
To minimize risk of transmitting disease, radiologists should adopt appropriate hand hygiene, as it is the most important and easy to comply with practice for ensuring infection control. They should also have enough PPE available, ask patients to wait in their cars to minimize time in the waiting room, and abide by CDC guidelines for cleaning and decontaminating patient care areas.

With respect to procedures, radiologists should remember that different procedures come with different levels of risk and therefore varying levels of precaution. An aerosolizing procedure, for instance, is high-risk and requires clinicians exposed to patients with COVID-19 to wear more sophisticated masks (N95s) to reduce transmission.

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"PPE protocols are variable, depending on what procedure you're doing, the risk of that procedure, and the likelihood a patient has COVID-19" said Dr. Stefanie Weinstein, associate chief of radiology at San Francisco VA Health Systems and associate professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco. "In radiology, there are different protocols depending on what procedures are being done, and in the diagnostic and interventional spaces there are unique considerations."

Providers must be able to distinguish risks in procedures to keep staff and patients safe and prevent overuse (or underuse) of protective equipment.

Shorten exam time
ACR recommends that practices cut down on protocols to mitigate scanning time with all imaging modalities. The aim is to get patients in and out faster, and to address more cases, thereby minimizing exposure.

"There are ways to take some of those pictures faster or eliminate some of the pictures because they are not as necessary," said Davenport. "Finding ways to make an efficient protocol or to shorten the length of time someone takes to get an image can shorten the time they are exposing the patient to the healthcare environment and the staff to the patient. It also is important to address all the processes around image creation, such as how the patient gets from the door to the check in site, to IV placement (if needed), to the imaging location, and safely back out again."

Any protocol changes, however, should not come at the cost of compromising quality or safety. "You want each radiology exam to be diagnostic," said Weinstein. "You don't want to decrease the length of time it takes to do the exam but then impair the quality. It's a balance between efficiency and quality."

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