Radiologist Assistants (RAs) are changing the way that medical patients interact with the health care profession. The field of medicine has been branching out into various specialties for a long time now, and the field of radiology is not that old itself. However, the increasing public reliance on health technology such as imaging devices has resulted in an increased workload for people in this branch of medicine. The position of Radiologist Assistant was designed to answer this growing need.
What Is a Radiologist Assistant?
Before addressing the Radiologist Assistant, lets first talk about Radiologic Technologists (RTs). Radiologic Technologists are non-physician radiographers who have received formalized training in the principles and techniques of radiologic examinations. Registered Radiologic Technologists are those that have also passed a national examination and can use the initials ARRT signifying that they are part of the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. They work under the direct supervision of fully-trained physician.
The expanding demands for the services of radiologists as well as the increasing experience and educational requirements of RTs have brought into existence a new profession within the field, the Radiologist Assistant (RA). An RA is a radiographer with additional experience and education when compared even to the RRT. Recognized with a certificate for their higher level of training, these professionals can offer direct service to patients as health providers as long as they work under the supervision of a radiologist, much like a Physician Assistant (PA) in other areas of medicine.
The RA is primarily focused on managing patients and their health assessments. Whereas an RT carried out the instructions given him or her by a radiologist, the RA can adapt exam protocols to meet the needs of the patient and even perform certain procedures on his or her own. The RA still has to channel all of his or her findings and decisions to a radiologist for final diagnoses.
The Advantages in Having an RA Available
The workloads of radiologists are increasing significantly every year. Since the growth rate of fully-trained radiologists has been much slower than this growth in demand, these doctors hope to utilize radiologist assistants for a variety of tasks. An RA could perform routine exams and allow for the office to maintain more professional contact with patients. This would allow radiologists to spend more time on the invasive procedures which an RA cannot perform and also let them simply spend more time interpreting images and diagnosing patients.
Recent Legislation About Radiologist Assistants
The usefulness of RAs in the radiology office is so great and their need so evident, that representatives at the federal level have introduced legislation regarding their status. HR 1148 would allow Medicare to treat an RA as a non-physician provider (NPP) of health care, and they would be eligible to receive reimbursement for services provided to Medicare patients at 85% of the professional fee component. This could greatly benefit the profession and allow more of the public to see these health care providers, without additionally burdening the radiologists.
HIS will keep you updated and provide additional information about the bill, as it becomes available.