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Radiation Safety Awareness Initiative

Highmark Blue Shield of Northeastern New York launched a Radiation Safety Awareness Initiative in September 2017 in conjunction with National Imaging Associates (NIA), our nationally recognized Radiology Benefits Manager. This continuing proactive program supports our focus on patient safety and helps to raise awareness of the health risks associated with cumulative radiation exposure.

Radiation Effective Dose

Radiation exposure from medical imaging is a valid patient safety concern. The radiation effective dose is the amount of radiation received by the patient through an exposure and studies suggest a significant increase in risk of cancer at lifetime cumulative radiation effective dose estimates of 50 milliSieverts (mSv) or more.

The largest contributors to the increase in medical radiation exposure are CT scans and nuclear medicine. Reaching the cumulative effective dose of 50 mSv is not uncommon in patients having multiple CT and/or nuclear imaging studies.

Radiation Awareness Population

The Radiation Safety Awareness Initiative seeks to address this safety concern by identifying patients at risk and addressing prevention through patient education and informed medical decision making.

The radiation awareness population are those patients with cumulative radiation exposure at or above 50 mSv putting them at an increased risk of developing radiation-associated complications including cancer. These patients are identified through radiology claims which are provided to NIA by Blue Shield for analysis of radiation exposure.

Physician Alerts

A physician alert for a member identified as part of the radiation awareness population is provided by NIA at the time an imaging test is requested and reviewed for preauthorization. The alert is provided in the same form that the request is received (verbally or on-line). This notification includes the offer of a peer-to-peer consultation to examine appropriate options, if desired.

Emergency Medicine

Although the imaging studies ordered and performed in the ER are included when calculating a patient's estimated radiation exposure, Emergency Medicine physicians are exempt from the preauthorization process. There is an opportunity for ER physicians to impact the patient’s cumulative radiation exposure through effectively managing the use of imaging in this setting.

The following sites provide additional information on radiation safety: