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Keeping tabs on radiation

May 2011

Published in the May 2011 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

WHEN CALIFORNIA PASSED A LAW LAST FALL requiring hospitals and clinics to track the amount of radiation patients receive from CT scans, it underscored the growing concern over radiation exposure from imaging exams.

While California is the first state to require health care facilities to track and report radiation, health departments in other states are paying attention. That interest is also driving the development of new products designed to protect patients from receiving too much radiation.

A case in point is RadTrac, a new product that tracks the amount of radiation patients have received in the past “and predicts how much the next test will add to their cumulative exposure.

Jesse Fisher, president and CEO of RadTrac, says that the tracking system works by gathering information about imaging studies patients have undergone in the past and assigning a radiation value to each. When new studies are scheduled, the system can quickly give an estimate of how much radiation patients will receive “and how those studies will increase their cumulative total.

Mr. Fisher says that in hospitals using the system, physicians are changing how they order diagnostic imaging. "We’re seeing some physicians thinking twice before even ordering a CT," he explains. "The tracking system helps the hospital refocus on not just the results of the diagnostic exam, but the overall health of the patient."

The RadTrac system, which was released in July 2010, may also help change the approach to radiation in the long term.

"We’re hoping that one to three years from now, the data we’re collecting will be shared and help facilities understand what other hospitals are doing," says Suzanne Titus, RadTrac’s director of business development. "If a hospital is using less radiation on its studies, we hope that would be shared."

Interest in the product has been brisk, in part because imaging directors are fielding questions from patients worried about radiation exposure. But the reality is that current data on radiation exposure are spotty, and many hospitals have a hard time addressing patient concerns.

That’s something that RadTrac wants to change. "We’re putting a stake in the ground now and going forward knowing that we need to collect these data," Mr. Fisher says.

More information about RadTrac is online at www.radtrac.com.