Note from Patrick D. Coon, RCCS, RDCS, FASE, Chair of the Council on Cardiovascular Sonography Steering Committee: This month we have invited the ARDMS to give an update on current affairs as the second part of our focus on sonographer registry. Many thanks to both of our recognized credentialing bodies, CCI and ARDMS, for the tireless work performed on our behalf as sonographers.
ARDMS now has a 40-year history of sonography credentialing with particular pride in awarding the first sonographer echocardiography credentials. The Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) is a well-established and accepted credential for the cardiac sonographer in the clinical specialties of adult (AE), pediatric (PE), and fetal (FE) echocardiography. All RDCS certifications, which are held by 24,000 individuals, are internationally accredited by meeting the International Standards Organization (ISO) 17024 personnel credentialing standards.
Particular challenges with healthcare credentialing are many: assuring that the credentials that ARDMS awards are based on community standards of practice, that they are continuously validated, and that they meet the demands of what clinical practices and healthcare institutions actually need, particularly in a rapidly changing cardiology landscape. As with all credentialing organizations, any awarded certification must be recognized by a variety of clinical communities, governmental and regulatory bodies, and must be aligned with accepted scopes of practice as this would provide legal protection for the individual, clinical practices, and related institutions. Maintaining this currency in credentialing is necessary so that the public can be protected.
The pace of change in cardiology practices through diversifying scopes of practice and use of new technologies provides the echocardiographer unique opportunities and continuously pushes ARDMS to deliver enhanced certifications and to develop systems that will better serve our certificants. New types of questions and assessments are being rigorously investigated and developed by ARDMS as demonstrated by the semi-interactive console item, PACSIM simulator items, hotspots, and other novel assessment tools to measure higher cognitive levels of healthcare professionals.
As a response to changing practice patterns, ARDMS is also meeting the need for cardiologists whose practice involves general vascular ultrasound studies. The Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation (RPVI) certification is a dedicated physician examination in vascular ultrasound with nearly 4,000 certified physicians from a variety of clinical specialties. The RPVI certification started in 2008 and is now a qualifying examination for the Vascular Surgery Boards. However, in the last couple of years the majority of RPVI candidates are adult cardiologists.
Over the years, ARDMS has constantly evolved to assure quality is maintained within traditional sonography practices. Because of the expanding ultrasound and healthcare landscapes with many new types of sonograms being performed by a wide variety of medical professionals, we have seen that a much more dramatic change is necessary if we are to uphold our mission of protecting the public.
To meet the challenges of a rapidly changing ultrasound environment, ARDMS will be reorganizing its governance and management structure so our highly skilled credentialing organization can expand its mission of protecting the public through certification. The ARDMS Board of Directors, consisting of sonographers and physicians from many varied areas in the practice of ultrasound, feel it is essential that an expanded outreach of quality standards through certification will have a positive impact to public safety. This increasing diversity of ultrasound users is ubiquitous, even in the area of echocardiography.
Beginning in January 2016, an overarching governance board, named Inteleos, is overseeing the policies of ARDMS while ARDMS′ purpose has gone back to its roots of sonographer credentialing. The revitalized singular focus of ARDMS allows the sonographer’s voice of sonographic quality to be distinctly heard amongst the diverse alliance of ultrasound users. The ARDMS physician ultrasound certifications, and other future physician certifications, will be housed under Inteleos in the new Alliance of Physician Certification and Advancement (APCA). APCA will also oversee our Point-of-Care Ultrasound Academy where certificate-level assessments will be available to those physicians who use ultrasound in a limited scope in a variety of clinical settings. Focused cardiac ultrasound will be one of many content areas in our Point-of-Care Ultrasound Academy.
APCA will also have a formal distinct global reach as the established RPVI-China will be administered through this physician council as well as the developing certification programs for physicians in the Federación Latinoamericana de Sociedades de Ultrasonido en Medicina y Biología (Federation of Latin American Ultrasound Societies [FLAUS]). Furthermore, both physician-based and advanced care provider communities have engaged Inteleos/APCA exploring opportunities for quality certifications. We are actively working with several of these societies to jointly raise the standards of ultrasound practice in their particular communities.
To fulfill our mission, we must consistently assure assessment quality with continuous quality improvement measures for ARDMS and APCA programs. To these ends, Inteleos will utilize its team of experienced psychometricians who will provide expanded and progressive in-house psychometric services. These psychometricians and related staff have significant experience in healthcare testing, and they will also offer their services to a variety of professions and practice areas.
As the field of ultrasound evolves, a global progressive organization such as Inteleos with leadership from ARDMS and APCA is poised to meet the challenge of assuring that quality measures are in place for the individual healthcare professional. Inteleos’ mission will continue to be to protect the public through assessments as we cultivate a global community of ultrasound professionals. We look forward in continuing to work closely with ASE and the cardiology community to assist in continued excellence in patient care.
Thomas D. Shipp, MD, RDMS is the Chair of the Inteleos Board of Directors, and David Stolte, MBA, RDCS is the Vice-Chair of the Inteleos Board of Directors.