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XRay technicians: Missing in malpractice cases

By Lisa Tortorello, Jun 10 '11

http://www.asrt.org/

While the American health care system has its share of malpractice lawsuits, a new study published in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology shows that lawsuits against radiologic technologists are rare. The study also shows that when payments are awarded against radiologic technologists, also known as xray technicians, they are relatively small.

"Despite widespread perceptions of an increasingly litigious environment for health care providers, successful lawsuits against R.T.s are actually very infrequent," wrote Doctors Richard Duszak, Leonard Berlin and Paul Ellenbogen, authors of the study.

According to an October 2010 press release issued by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), fewer than nine malpractice payments involving an xray technician are awarded each year. In more than half of these cases, payments do not exceed $50,000. These findings come from analysis of xray technician malpractice payments reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank over 18 years. Of the 155 cases examined in the study, xray technicians comprised 85 percent of the defendants. Top reasons for malpractice suits include diagnostic errors. Of those, nearly a quarter of the suits were from failure to diagnose and nine percent were for a wrong diagnosis or misdiagnosis. Other causes for malpractice suits came from improper technique, failure to monitor, failure to conform with regulations, statutes or rules and improper conduct, according to the study.

XRay Technicians: Steering Clear of the Courtroom

While the Journal of the American College of Radiology cites "deep-pocket" shielding by hospitals and radiologists against extremely costly lawsuits as one of the contributors to the low number of filings and rather small financial rewards, the intensity of the training programs required by students enrolled in xray technician schools may also play a part. The work of the xray technician is extremely technical. These individuals are responsible for following physicans' orders, preparing patients and operating equipment, and performing complex imaging procedures, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Training programs in radiography can results in a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree, according to the BLS. Certificate programs typically last around 21-24 months. An associate degree is the most prevalent form of educational attainment among radiologic technologists and technicians.

Programs in xray technician schools focus on both classroom and clinical instruction in the following areas:

  • Patient care procedures and positioning
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Radiation physics and protection
  • Medical terminology and ethics
  • Radiobiology
  • Pathology

After graduating from xray technician schools, students follow licensing requirements outlined by the state in which they are practicing. Many states require licensing; however, some do not. In addition to state licensing, xray technicians can choose to take their education one step further by pursuing voluntary certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technicians (ARRT). Only graduates of ARRT-approved, xray technician programs are eligible to sit for the certification exam, an achievement preferred by many employers. And, certification is only maintained by earning 24 hours of continuing education every two years.

XRay Technicians: Focused on Continual Safety

The ASRT has taken the certification of xray technicians to the next level by supporting the CARE (Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility and Excellence) bill, which has been referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. As defined by the ASRT, the CARE bill would ensure that basic minimum education and certification standards are established for all medical imaging and radiation therapy personnel working in facilities receiving Medicare payments or for physicians receiving Medicare payments. States failing to meet the minimum requirements would risk losing their Medicare reimbursement for radiologic procedures, according to the ASRT. As a result, the passage of the bill could mean that even lower numbers of xray technicians will appear in the pages of malpractice lawsuits in coming years.

 

 

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