By David Beyer, MD, FASTRO
We all face many similar challenges in our practices, whether in an academic medical center or small private practice, an urban hospital or suburban clinic, a big city or rural site. However, there are also vast differences that come with each setting. Until recently, we had little understanding and even less data on the unique challenges faced by ASTRO members who practice in a rural setting, In October 2018, ASTRO's Board of Directors decided to pursue a Rural Radiation Oncology Initiative to support ASTRO members and radiation oncology facilities ensuring patient access to care in rural communities. In January 2019, the Board asked me to chair the ASTRO Rural Task Force. We selected members from across ASTRO councils, as many of our colleagues who work in rural areas across the country, to serve on the task force. In addition, the Board agreed with a broad set of potential rural strategies for the task force to explore.
In March 2019, task force members were asked to provide written responses on a series of questions to inform the project. In addition, I solicited input on the initiative from the ASTRO membership via ROhub. One of the most common themes submitted involved the challenges for rural radiation oncologists to access peer review from other rural practitioners and nationally recognized experts. Thus, the idea for a peer matching system was born.
After exploring different options, the task force and ASTRO ultimately decided on an out-of-the-box program that would be housed in ROhub. The aim is to match interested radiation oncologists (with a focus on those in rural settings) with others for the purpose of reviewing each other's cases by remote access on a recurring basis.
In January 2020, the customization of the program began. In the following months, many rounds of review by the task force members ensued, and now, today, I am happy to announce the Peer-to-Peer Match is live! In light of COVID-19, the need to create virtual connections to continue treating patients is greater than ever.
Peer-to-Peer Match is an online tool — including a searchable database — that facilitates the establishment of relationships for the purpose of peer review of patient cases. The platform is user-driven, allowing enrolled participants to search, using specified criteria, to find other interested individuals whose experience and expertise would assist them in evaluating patient cases and treatment plans. This platform may be used to find and establish an ongoing peer-to-peer relationship or a one-off case review with a specialist. Participants will communicate outside the platform using their own communication vehicles to establish the parameters of the relationship and review cases.
Members can enroll and find fellow peers in the program in four easy steps that only take a few minutes. Once enrolled, members can also specify the number of peer matches they desire at a time. For more information, see the Peer-to-Peer Match page on ASTRO.org or contact ROhub Community Manager Laura Hinely.
I am personally excited and have already signed up. I hope my rural colleagues and all radiation oncologists will find this new program beneficial. Peer-to-Peer Match is a free ASTRO member benefit, and I encourage you to explore it further.