ACR to Imaging Centers: Do Not Dither on UnitedHealth Accreditation

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In announcing that all network imaging centers must be accredited by March of next year, UnitedHealthcare, Minnetonka, Minn, has added accelerated the trend toward imaging center accreditation and technical privileging requirements, The United accreditation program applies to all participating freestanding imaging centers and physician offices and is based on the accreditation standards developed by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission. Imaging modalities impacted include CT, MRI, PET, nuclear medicine/cardiology, and echocardiography. In order to be in compliance, the ACR has advised imaging centers and physician offices to submit accreditation applications by June of this year.

While quality standards are likely to be beneficial for providers of high quality imaging services, the accreditation trend does have troubling aspects. The federal Mammography Quality Standards Act handily separated the wheat from the chafe among mammography providers, but it also added administrative cost to the delivery of service with no additional reimbursement. Perhaps even of more concern is the possibility that imaging centers will end up having to meet multiple accreditation standards developed by different payors.

Nonetheless, imaging providers are well-advised to begin the UnitedHealthcare accreditation process now, as the ACR expects a considerable number of applications. The ACR has set up a help desk staffed by qualified technologists to assist imaging providers comply with the new requirements. In his podcast from the ACR web site, chairman Arl Van Moore, MD, explains the accreditation process and advises those providers seeking accreditation in response to the UnitedHealthcare initiative to have all applications and materials submitted by June 1, 2007. “While this new requirement may present certain challenges, accreditation also must be recognized as an opportunity for providers and facilities to demonstrate to their communities, patients, payors, and referring physicians that they are committed to providing only the highest quality of care,” Van Moore says in his podcast. He strongly urged early submission.