Health minister launches review into imaging, pathology

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Province-wide move comes on heels of misinterpreted results in Drumheller

Alberta’s review of diagnostic imaging and pathology testing will focus on how the services are provided as a whole instead of examining individual locations or individuals for competency, the health minister said Thursday.

In an interview with the St. Albert Gazette, Alberta Health and Wellness Minister Fred Horne said the province-wide review will examine best practices at the quality and assurance level as opposed to day-to-day operations.

“It’s definitely focused on the best practices in the system,” Horne said. “This really has to do with how care is organized.”

The minister’s sweeping review of imaging and pathology testing province-wide came moments after a similar but smaller review was announced for Drumheller. Alberta Health Services will be examining CT, ultrasound and x-ray results after it was discovered that a pathologist made interpretation errors in 34 cases. All of those patients are being notified by AHS for follow-up.

The last six weeks have also seen two other high-profile cases where test results might have been presented incorrectly. In November, the Rockyview General Hospital had to review 31 pathology tests due to potential concerns with a piece of equipment, and earlier this month AHS disclosed it was reviewing 1,700 cases at the Royal Alexandra Hospital after it alleged a pathologist had misread some samples taken from cancer patients.

“This was the third incident that had been reported in the last six weeks or so regarding issues with pathology testing and interpretation of radiology images,” Horne said. “It certainly pointed out to me the need to look at the system overall, not from the practice of physicians and health providers, but what checks and balances we have or what we ones we need to have.”

Exactly what that review will look like has yet to be determined, Horne said, saying he should have more details within a few weeks. He has already asked AHS, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and the Health Quality Council of Alberta to recommend a plan. He will also be looking to “outside experts” for help.

“What I would like to do is look at who are the leaders in North America and globally? What health systems are the acknowledged leaders and have the best practices and maybe look to there to have some outside expertise,” Horne said.

When asked about how the review might affect agencies such as the Sturgeon Community Hospital, which provides diagnostic imaging and laboratory services, as well as private service providers such as DynaLIFE Dx and Medical Imaging Consultants, Horne emphasized he was not looking to single anyone out.

“It’s not a review of how individuals are performing their roles. It’s not a look at the practices of each individual. It’s the policies and procedures that provide for quality assurances in the health system. We’re talking about how care is organized.”

Horne said he does not have a timeline in mind for the review’s completion, but expects to know more next month.

“We’ll take the appropriate, the right amount of time. I don’t know how long that will be,” he said. “Obviously the sooner the better, but we need to be thorough and involve the right experts.”

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St. Albert Gazette

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