Noor Ahmad, MD, Appointed Co-Director of Quality and Patient Safety

January 20, 2022

The Department of Radiology is pleased to announce Dr. Noor Ahmad's new appointment as co-director of quality and patient safety. In his new role, Dr. Ahmad will focus on quality for the department and oversee the department's Quality and Patient Safety (QPS) committee. He will be responsible for both quality control and improvement and will ensure that the department maintains excellence in line with national quality standards.

“I’m excited to have this opportunity to help the department maintain and deliver consistent excellence for both diagnostic and interventional radiology,” said Dr. Ahmad. “This position will allow to me work closely and collaborate with my radiology colleagues as well as departmental and hospital leadership to continuously evaluate our performance, ensure the highest expectations for safety, and set forth goals to keep making us better.”

Dr. Ahmad joined the Department of Radiology in the Division of Interventional Radiology in 2020. He is an assistant professor of radiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. He formerly served as chief of interventional radiology at Staten Island University Hospital/Northwell Health.

Q & A With Dr. Ahmad

What is the Quality and Patient Safety Committee?

The Quality and Patient Safety Committee includes a wide range of department leadership, including faculty members, radiology managers from different sites and modalities, and physicists, as well as a quality specialist from NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP). We meet monthly and review all safety events that occur within the department and address each issue, complaint, or concern individually. In addition we review a wide range of quality metrics for the department.

How does addressing safety events through the committee lead to overall improvement in the department?

Issues are something you react to. Improvement happens when you get ahead of issues. We're working on many quality improvement projects, and many of the ideas for these projects come from safety events that have already occurred.

An example of a project we’re working on is organizing simulations for different types of safety events that occur within the department so that we can make sure everyone in the room, including the nurse and technologist, is prepared for that urgent or emergent situation. We're planning to have simulation sessions occur within our actual suites, but we're also working with the simulation center at the medical school, where we can simulate a real-life scenario. Example scenarios include a patient developing severe contrast reaction during a CT or MRI, or a patient going into septic shock in the interventional radiology suite. It's a excellent collaborative opportunity between technologists, nurses, and doctors, where everyone can learn how to work together in those situations and understand what the responsibilities are for each team member.

Another project we're working on has to do with the incidental findings on diagnostic scans—such as a lung nodule, or a lesion on the kidney, or a slightly dilated aorta. Often, the radiologist reads these out on the report and then hopes the clinician will follow up on it. We're trying to close that loop on our end and essentially connect with the physicians to get the follow-up scan done. It's a big initiative around the country, and part of the job is to figure out how to do that with the electronic medical record (EMR) and all the systems we have. 

Those are just a couple of examples of the many projects we're working on.

How will artificial intelligence (AI) be part of quality and patient safety in the future?

We have a lot of things to do first, but artificial intelligence is definitely the future. If you look at our systems—just within radiology we have our PACS, our EMR, and our dictation system. Outside the department you can add many layers of systems between NYP and ColumbiaDoctors. From a quality standpoint, AI is going to be key in connecting these different systems and finding issues in the intersection of these systems. We're actually already seeing the future occur with NLP, or natural language processing, which allows computers to process and analyze large amounts of human language.

So for example, in the case of incidental findings, NLP can be harnessed to analyze reports and pick up findings. It won't be humans going through reports, it will be machines going through reports and picking up these incidental findings. That's just one example.

How did you get interested in quality and safety?

I initially became interested in quality in my previous job when I was chief of interventional radiology at Staten Island University Hospital, where I did a lot of quality work for IR there. I also have an engineering background and engineering is very systems oriented—you look at systems and try to improve systems as much as possible to impact as many people as possible. And that's essentially what quality is. You're putting systems in place that improve performance. They can flow on a daily level with constant checks.

It's very challenging and a lot of hard work, but it's an incredible learning experience as well as a chance to add significant value to the department. I get the opportunity to work with everyone in the department to find solutions and to make ourselves better. We have such impressive people in this department, and it's exciting to work together and find solutions.