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NQF Endorses Consensus Standards to Reduce Waste and Promote Safe and Effective Use of Imaging Procedures

Measures address appropriate and efficient use of procedures

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Quality Forum has endorsed eight national voluntary consensus standards to encourage the appropriate and efficient use of imaging procedures in outpatient settings. The set of standards helps -- via measurement and public reporting -- to decrease inappropriate use and costs associated with outpatient imaging while improving care for patients and increasing patient safety.

Outpatient imaging -- such as CT scans and MRIs -- is a common and frequently performed part of healthcare delivery that has an annual cost of approximately $14 billion for Medicare beneficiaries. Yet there are few national standards to measure the safety, quality, efficiency, and appropriate use of outpatient imaging services.

"There are opportunities within many areas of our healthcare system to eliminate waste by providing effective services, and only effective services, to each and every patient," said Janet Corrigan, NQF president and CEO. "To improve the quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare in America we must reduce unnecessary and redundant services that expose patients to more potential harm than good."

When measured and publicly reported, the standards endorsed by NQF can help healthcare systems pinpoint inefficiencies, waste, and overuse within outpatient imaging services by tracking patient radiation exposure, documenting the use of imaging services, and tracking the use of results.

Mark Needham, MD, MBA, CEO of Santa Monica Bay Physicians Health Services, and David Levin, MD, professor and chairman of Jefferson Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, co-chaired NQF's steering committee on outpatient imaging.

"Imaging is vitally important to many diagnostic evaluations and preventive healthcare programs. It also can be expensive for patients and other purchasers," said Needham. "Endorsing standards for imaging services through a consensus process like NQF's leads all of us toward an effective use of imaging studies that is likely to give us the best medical results with the best value."

Specific standards within the set encourage the appropriate use of mammography by measuring use of a patient reminder system to increase screenings for breast cancer. Other standards aim to reduce inappropriate use and patient radiation exposure by documenting the use of imaging when few symptoms are present. Measures also intend to make imaging results more helpful and accurate by removing report categories that are unclear or ambiguous, such as documenting a mammography result as "probably benign."

"Imaging is one of the most rapidly growing physician services. We have to make sure it's being done right, and only for appropriate reasons," said Levin. "These eight measures were recommended by a multispecialty panel that represented not just radiologists but many other stakeholders who believe measures will help ensure quality imaging that is done for the right reasons."

Encouraging appropriate use of outpatient imaging aligns with the priorities for healthcare reform identified by the National Priorities Partnership (NPP), a group of 28 major national organizations representing consumers, providers, practitioners, purchasers, government, accrediting and certifying organizations, quality alliances and health plans that was convened by NQF. The NPP has identified reducing waste and inappropriate use as one of the six national priorities that with goals and actions can dramatically improve healthcare.

The endorsement of this set of outpatient imaging measures is an important step by NQF, a member of the NPP, toward reducing waste and inappropriate use and improving quality in healthcare.

How to Appeal

NQF is a voluntary consensus standards-setting organization. Any party may request reconsideration of the recommendations, in whole or in part, by notifying NQF in writing via email no later than November 28 ( For an appeal to be considered, the notification email must include information clearly demonstrating that the appellant has interests that are directly and materially affected by the NQF-endorsed recommendations and that the NQF decision has had (or will have) an adverse effect on those interests.


This work was conducted under a contract from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.


Please visit our website at to read the full specifications for all of the new NQF-endorsed voluntary consensus standards and read NQF's research recommendations.

The mission of the National Quality Forum is to improve the quality of American healthcare by setting national priorities and goals for performance improvement, endorsing national consensus standards for measuring and publicly reporting on performance, and promoting the attainment of national goals through education and outreach programs. NQF, a non-profit organization ( with diverse stakeholders across the public and private health sectors, was established in 1999 and is based in Washington, DC.

SOURCE National Quality Forum
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