Ultrasound Lab Accreditation 101

By: Trisha Reo, RVT, RDMS

Achieving and maintaining accreditation status

Accredited Lab for SonographyAs the Technical Director of Vascular Ultrasound Services at my facility, I have personally experienced the tedious processes of achieving and maintaining accreditation status. Achieving vascular lab accreditation status in ultrasound requires compliance with requirements regarding ultrasound image quality and consistency, exam protocols, quality assurance and continuing medical education. In my professional opinion, ultrasound lab accreditation is a necessary evil that ensures quality diagnostic care and improves patient outcomes. Professional societies, such as the SDMS, agree that accreditation is a staple of a quality diagnostic ultrasound lab (here is the link to an excellent article on accreditation). Although this process can be overwhelming if you are new to it, the ultrasound resources you need to be successful are readily available to you. Read on for some hints and helpful suggestions to get you better prepared.

Five Steps to a Successful Accreditation Application:

  1. Download or request a copy of the application requirements (visit AIUM, ACR, or Intersocietal ). This is your road map. Review it, learn it, know it, and follow it! If you do each step in this application, you are on the road to success!
  2. Download and implement the suggested professional ultrasound exam guidelines from the website of the organization you are applying for accreditation with. If you have any trouble locating these guidelines, call the organization and ask for assistance in obtaining these. And remember, these are suggested ultrasound protocols! You do not have to follow them verbatim but your protocol should at least include the listed ultrasound images.
  3. Designate a physician to be your lab’s Medical Director and involve them. It is important to seek and consider their professional opinion throughout this process!
  4. Communicate the ultrasound guidelines, CME requirements and expectations during this process to your technical staff. This will alleviate any confusion they may have about the changes the department is making. Have multiple CME resources available to them to encourage compliance. Visit Gulfcoast Ultrasound Institute for access to multiple online and textbook CME resources.
  5. Submit an application that reflects only your best work and be sure it is organized. Remember, the application you submit will represent your facility and department, so make sure your application highlights your labs strengths and abilities!

Performing a Venous Imaging scanFollow the above steps and you are on your way to achieving ultrasound lab accreditation! There is nothing easy about this process but, it is well worth the hard work you will put into it.

Don’t be afraid to call or email the organization you are seeking accreditation from if you have any questions or find yourself lost during the process. They are there to help you in any way they can.

Good luck and happy scanning!

The Future of Education – eLearning/Online Education for ultrasound

We are seeing trends of technology branching out into various aspects of daily life. One particular area that has embraced technology is education. Technology is used more in education by using the internet as a Key method for communicating with students. Today, online learning systems such as Moodle™ and Blackboard® make it easy to manage or participate in a virtual classroom anywhere and at any time.

The Future of Education -The Online Classroom at Gulfcoast Ultrasound Institute
The Online Classroom at Gulfcoast Ultrasound Institute offers convenient courses for sonographers of all experience levels.

Online learning for sonographers

In particular, I enjoy the online ultrasound education websites. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that your time is in short supply and valuable.  If I am unable to attend live ultrasound course, I usually sign up for something like an online webinar or online lecture video. For the most part, these online services help to provide me with enough knowledge to succeed in my studies however; there are situations when I need more time or more learner-to-instructor communication to help me to understand the material better. This, I believe, is the one of the major attributes of online classroom sites along with sharing files, talking one-to-one with instructors via email or even faster with instant messaging built right in via chat room, and I can pace myself into my own e-Learning schedule.

I find that reading materials separately or watching a video of the instructor speaking while following along with the materials greatly improve my performance. The ability to pause or rewind and fast-forward the video to make necessary notations on my printouts of the information is really convenient. What is really cool about online classrooms are that when I have questions I can simply send message or questions to the instructor.

Online course features

As far as the management area of online education systems, the instructor has the ability to do the following.

  • Assignment submissions
  • Discussion forums
  • File sharing
  • Grading
  • Instant messaging
  • Online calendar
  • Online news and announcements
  • Online quizzing

Now, keep in mind that online classrooms are not limited to just those attributes. Extended functionality opens up a more interactive set of features such as games, case study reviews with pictures and videos, and interactive quizzing and flash cards.

Most online education systems are fully mobile ready. With today’s sophisticated technology in smartphones and tablets, you can do almost everything while traveling.

The Online Classroom – at Gulfcoast Ultrasound Institute

I’ve done a bit of research and found that Gulfcoast Ultrasound Institute has a very good online education system. It allows me to log in whenever I have the time to study and need to prepare for an upcoming registry exam. I really like the fact that the presenters are really well-known educators in their field and you can find lots of published articles, books and videos that they have written or contributed to.

The courses are broken into separate modules that concentrate on a particular subject and then you can take a quiz that tests your retention of the material. The system remembers my grades and where I left off so I can return later and pick up where I left off.

One of the things I like the best is that when I complete my coursework and exams, I get issued a certificate that helps me keep up with my CME’s. If I misplace this certificate I can come back later and re-print it if I need to.

There are a few choices in online learning for ultrasound but I have found this one the most comprehensive and simple to use. It feels a bit like a traditional classroom in the fact that you have the ability to communicate and interact with some instructors and I happen to like that element.

Certifications, Reimbursement and Lab Accreditation Updates

EchocardiographyEver changing certification, lab accreditation and reimbursement standards for echocardiography and vascular ultrasound can be confusing and hard to keep up with. To help out we’ve bundled it up, listed useful links to the right resources and summarized the key points to help answer all those burning questions.


Recertification:

Did you know; if you currently hold a certification from the ARDMS (American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers) you will not be required to begin taking the recertification exam until 2019 and will not have to pass it until 2022?

This includes all RDMS, RVT and RDCS registered Technologists. For all new certifications earned after January 1, 2012, you will have to take your recertification exams starting 10 years after you have acquired your credential.
* for more information regarding recertification and credentialing, please visit www.ardms.org


Reimbursements:

Did you know; reimbursement requirements for Medicare varies from state to state?

Several states require either lab accreditation and/or sonographer/physician credentialing for reimbursement. This applies to echocardiography and non-invasive vascular studies.

Full policy details and individual state reimbursement directive can be found on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) website.

To find a payment policy, go to www.cms.gov/mcd/overview.asp and follow these instructions:

  1. Click on Advanced Search
  2. Under Search by Document Type, check Local Coverage Documents
  3. Under What documents types do you want to search for? Check All Policies (LCD) and then Final Policies
  4. Select Geographic Area (State) AND/OR Contractor Criteria
  5. Type the testing area you are searching for (i.e., noninvasive vascular) or the LCD ID # into Enter Keyword(s) box and choose Title
  6. Click Search by Type box
  7. A page will appear asking you to accept the Terms & Conditions, Click Agree
  8. A new page will open with your search results

Additional information on reimbursement for individual states can found on the ICAVL website for vascular reimbursement and the ICAEL website for echocardiography.


Lab Accreditation:

Did you know; by 2017 ICAVL (Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Vascular Laboratories) requires all technical staff to be registered to comply with lab accreditation?

Appropriate credentialing: RVT (Registered Vascular Technologist) from the ARDMS, RVS (Registered Vascular Specialist) from CCI or RT (VS) (Registered Technologist Vascular Sonography) from the ARRT.

Additional information on credentialing can be found at www.ardms.org, www.cci-online.org , or www.arrt.org

Did you know; that ICAEL (Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Echocardiography Laboratories) is changing their physician requirements?

All physicians who do not have level 2 or 3 echocardiography training must pass the NBE (National Board of Echocardiography) by 2015 to comply with ICAEL accreditation. The purpose of the NBE is to establish the domain of the practice of echocardiography for the purpose of certification, assess the level of knowledge demonstrated by a licensed physician practitioner of echocardiography in a valid manner, enhance the quality of echocardiography and individual professional growth in echocardiography, formally recognize individuals who satisfy the requirements set by the NBE, and serve the public by encouraging quality patient care in the practice of echocardiography.

For more information on the NBE please visit www.echoboards.org

Training Level

Cumulative Duration
of Training

Minimum Number of
Examinations Performed

Minimum Number of
Examinations Interpreted

Level 1

3 months

75

150

Level 2

6 months

150 (75 additional)

300 (150 additional)

Level 3

12 months

300 (150 additional)

750 (450 additional)

Additional information on reimbursement for individual states can be found on the ICAVL website for vascular reimbursement and the ICAEL website for echocardiography.

It’s time to think Ultrasound for all the right reasons.

Ultrasound FirstFor appropriate clinical conditions, ultrasound offers clear safety and economic advantages over radiographic exams, and yet evidence suggests that ultrasound is underutilized. Many clinicians are unaware of the range of conditions for which ultrasound first is an established guideline, and the gap only grows larger as research extends ultrasound’s diagnostic value.

What is Ultrasound First?

Ultrasound First is an endeavor devoted to education and increasing awareness of the effectiveness of ultrasound in enhancing patient care.

Objectives

  • Raise awareness of the value and benefits of ultrasound among patients, health care providers, and insurers
  • Provide ultrasound education and evidence-based guidelines for health care providers
  • Educate insurers about the cost savings and patient benefits associated with performing an ultrasound study when scientific evidence supports its potential effectiveness compared to other imaging modalities
  • Educate patients about the benefits of ultrasound as the appropriate imaging modality for their care
  • Encourage the incorporation of ultrasound into medical education

For more information about this initiative visit: www.ultrasoundfirst.org