The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is designating three national accreditation organizations – the American College of Radiology (ACR), the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC), and The Joint Commission (TJC) – to accredit suppliers furnishing the technical component (TC) of advanced diagnostic imaging procedures.  The accreditation requirement will apply only to the suppliers furnishing the imaging services, and not to the physician’s interpretation of the images.

As required by the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA), all suppliers of the TC of advanced imaging will have to become accredited by an accreditation organization designated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services by Jan. 1, 2012.  The accreditation requirement applies to physicians, non-physician practitioners, and physician and non-physician organizations that are paid for providing the technical component of advanced imaging services under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.

MIPPA specifically defines advanced diagnostic imaging procedures as including diagnostic magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), and nuclear medicine imaging such as positron emission tomography (PET).  The details of the accreditation organization selection process went through notice and comment rulemaking in the calendar year 2010 Physician Fee Schedule rule.

“While advanced diagnostic imaging procedures can be useful in identifying health problems that might otherwise require surgery, the rapid growth in their use raises important questions of quality and safety,” said Barry Straube, M.D., CMS chief medical officer and director of the CMS Office of Standards and Quality.  “The three organizations that will be accrediting suppliers have the expertise and authority to set a standard of excellence industry-wide.”

To be designated, the accrediting organizations had to demonstrate that they were experienced in the advanced diagnostic imaging area, and that their accreditation requirements met or exceeded the standards set out in MIPPA, including requirements for:

·         Qualifications of non-physician personnel performing the imaging;

·         Qualifications and responsibilities or medical directors and supervising physicians;

·         Procedures to ensure the safety of the individuals furnishing the imaging procedure and of the persons to whom the services are furnished;

·         Procedures to ensure the reliability, clarity, and accuracy of the technical quality of the diagnostic images produced by the supplier;

·         Procedures to assist the beneficiary in obtaining his/her imaging records on request; and

·         Procedures to notify CMS of any changes to the imaging modalities subsequent to the accrediting organization’s decision.

In addition, the accrediting organizations were required to develop a plan for reducing the burden and cost of accreditation to small and rural suppliers.  The accrediting organizations are also required to provide CMS with detailed information about their survey processes.

MIPPA specifically excluded from the accreditation requirement certain imaging services such as x-rays, ultrasound, and fluoroscopy procedures.  The law also excludes from the CMS accreditation requirement diagnostic and screening mammography, which are subject to quality oversight by the Food and Drug Administration under the Mammography Quality Standards Act.

CMS will issue further guidance to suppliers about meeting the accreditation requirements.  CMS plans to undertake a provider education outreach program to ensure that all affected suppliers understand the requirements and are able to comply with them prior to the Jan. 1, 2012, accreditation deadline.

For more information, please see the CMS Web site at: .