2020 Spring ASTROnews

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Improving Patient Safety and Clinical Standardization with Automation

By: Elisabeth Van Wie, MS, DABR, Radformation CBO
Looking back on the last 10 years in radiation oncology, we’ve seen emerging technologies come to bear, bringing with them the fruits of better, more effective treatments for patients. But the vast improvements in radiation oncology didn’t occur solely due to new, promising technologies. It also came from our field committing to the idea of safety and quality improvement, which is at the heart of all we do and should be guiding emerging technologies. Indeed, after reflecting on a decade of dedication to the movement of safety and quality, it’s clear that it has become interwoven into the daily workflows of radiation oncology clinicians worldwide. It has become part of our culture. 
As an example, consider AAPM’s Task Group 275, “Strategies for Effective Physics Plan and Chart Review in Radiation Therapy.” The findings show that there are over 100 high priority safety checks involved in the average patient’s pre-treatment plan check. Considering the cumulative volume of clinical checks, it becomes a simple matter of time before errors occur. This is where clinical commitment and vendor innovation converge. What I’ve found and advocated for is that automation can be a driver of clinical efficiency and safety. By automating as many plan checks as possible, clinicians can focus on elements of plan quality that require human judgment.
Corporate collaboration can also play a role in standardization, which shows promise in increasing patient safety. Through standardizing dose prescriptions, naming conventions and reporting, there is less room for error when navigating patient-specific workflows. Standardized templates provide a way for a team to easily and consistently follow external (TG Report, MPPGs, RTOG, etc.) and internal guidelines to increase patient safety by reducing variation and human error in treatment planning.
Patient safety is a top priority for clinics and corporations alike. Vendors that become true partners are the ones providing tools to deliver safer, more efficient treatments. It is incumbent upon us to take heed of recommendations set forth by ASTRO (e.g., Safety is No Accident) and AAPM (e.g., Task Group Reports and MPPGs) in order to develop products that support the needs of clinicians in establishing departments of the future.
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