2010 Annual Meeting Preview: Tobias Gilk of “2010 MRI Safety Update: Codes and Standards”

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By AHRA Staff

July 2010–As part of the Advanced Management track at the Annual Meeting in August, Tobias Gilk, M. Arch.of Mednovus SAFESCAN in Overland Park, KS will present “2010 MRI Safety Update: Codes and Standards.”

The presentation will include a recent retrospective on MRI accidents but will focus primarily on contemporary standards and codes that will help attendees to keep their sites from becoming another MRI accident statistic. The presentation will also discuss on CMS accreditation requirements for MRI and new patient safety criteria, as well as an overview of the recently settled multi-million dollar lawsuit over the MRI death of Michael Colombini, and other relevant legal actions. Perhaps most importantly, an analysis of 2010 updates to the healthcare building codes, Guidelines for the Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities, will describe significant new design requirements for MRI facilities.

Link recently spoke to presenter Toby Gilk to get a feel for what attendees can expect from the presentation.

Link: What inspired you to present on this topic?

Toby Gilk: Many people believe that somewhere in the mountain of radiology regulation there simply has to be MRI safety requirements that the industry has used at the point of care. It’s absurd that we’d scan 30 million people annually in the US and not have patient safety standards for MRI, right? Yes, it’s absurd, but no, there aren’t any safety requirements at the point of care for MRI. All of this is on the cusp of changing, however. In 2010, for the first time, The Joint Commission has MRI safety survey requirements, there are new design codes, and there’s even talk of new CMS requirements for safety of MRI providers.

Link: Why is your topic relevant to our members?

TG: Even if someone has seen my prior MR safety presentations, the contemporary changes in design requirements, accreditation demands, and federal oversight mean that the whole landscape is changing, even from just last year. Yes, there have been the Capitol Hill hearings on ionizing radiation safety and FDA hearings addressing CT and radiation therapy.  But with new federal requirements for MRI accreditation—even if it hasn’t been getting press—MRI safety is very much on the minds of the federal authorities.

Link: How might your presentation impact an attendee’s job and/or organization?

TG: This will be an incredibly valuable presentation, in part because these coming changes aren’t speculative. Standards are already written that states and regulatory agencies are going to adopt. We might not know the precise timeline, but these changes are inevitable. Some are likely to be echoed and expanded upon by federal authorities in the months ahead, but this presentation will be like a glimpse into the crystal ball of MRI safety standards and regulations. This represents a rare opportunity for administrators and managers to prepare for these changes, instead of scurrying to catch up when unannounced changes land on their desk.

Link: What 5 words would you use to describe your presentation?

TG: Engaging. Informative. Fun. Valuable. Farfegnugen. (OK, that has nothing to do with the presentation, but I needed a fifth word, and a fun one at that.)

Link: How can attendees prepare for your session in order to get the most out of it?

TG: The presentation will spend some time concentrating on the new physical/environment of care standards for MRI safety. It wouldn’t hurt to review where and how people are screened before MRI (both clinically for contraindications, and physically for ferromagnetic materials), your access control protocols, your infection control provisions, the ACR 4-zones, and cryogen safety. But even if you join us without having done this prep, you’ll still get a lot of great information to put right to use when you get back home.

Link: What do you think attendees will be most surprised to learn from your presentation?

TG: Even if your MRI suite or scanner is brand-spanking new, odds are good that it won’t meet the forthcoming standards. This information isn’t included in your vendors’ siting manuals. It’s not yet well known in the architectural or facility planning communities. And these changes may not be on the radar of quality and safety personnel. In short, if radiology administrators don’t demand that these issues are prospectively managed by others, you may find yourself having to make changes to MRI suites to keep current with forthcoming changes to codes and standards.

Link: If attendees were to remember one thing about your presentation, what would you most like it to be?

TG: I hope that they remember that they had a good time and that something as traditionally dry and painful as MRI safety can be engaging. But really, I’d be thrilled if, instead of remembering my presentation, every attendee returned to their facility committed to making at least one change to improve MR safety for their patients and staff. I’m much less worried about what they remember about the short time we’re all together than I am about what they’re motivated to do after they get home.


Tobias Gilk is president & MRI safety director for Mednovus, Inc. in Overland Park, KS.  He has written for several AHRA publications and has presented at many AHRA conferences.  He can be reached at Tobias.Gilk@Mednovus.com.

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