News | January 27, 2011

ASTRO Reaffirms Commitment to Quality, Patient Safety Plan

January 27, 2011 – The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) is continuing its commitment to Target Safely, a six-point patient protection plan developed in January 2010. The plan is designed to improve the safety and quality of radiation therapy treatments and reduce the chances of medical errors.

"Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is hard enough for patients without having the additional burden of worrying about the accuracy and safety of their treatments," said Anthony L. Zietman, M.D., ASTRO chairman and a radiation oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. "With every cancer patient, the goal is to treat and/or cure his or her disease in the safest and most effective way possible, that's why ASTRO is focused completely on ensuring patient safety."

Since the plan was established, ASTRO has made great strides in its Target Safely goals. Over the past year, ASTRO has:

• Proposed federal legislation to develop a national medical error reporting system and a patient safety database for radiation oncology.

• Tested the compatibility of different radiation oncology equipment vendors. Four use cases, or interoperability problems, were tested and passed successfully. Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise – Radiation Oncology (IHE-RO) is an ASTRO-sponsored initiative dedicated to improving integration issues related to radiation treatment equipment. Problems submitted to IHE-RO are reviewed by a taskforce composed of vendors, physicists and clinicians and taken directly to vendors. ASTRO is asking all radiation oncologists and hospitals to consider only IHE-RO compliant technologies when selecting new radiation therapy equipment.

• Continued to strengthen radiation oncology practice accreditation with more robust and meaningful measures. We are encouraging all radiation oncologists to participate.

• Made progress toward passage of legislation to require licensing standards for personnel performing radiation treatments, known as the CARE Act.

• Worked with patient support groups, cancer survivors and other medical organizations to create a list of questions patients should ask their physicians and cancer centers when considering radiation therapy as a treatment for their disease. These are designed to help patients better understand the safety checks and balances that are put into place to guard against errors. Those questions are available for download on rtanswers.org and to view as videos posted on YouTube.

• Developed a free self-assessment module titled "Quality Assurance for Advanced Technology Radiation Therapy" to review and identify quality assurance processes for all ASTRO members.

• Committed to incorporating quality and safety educational content in all ASTRO meetings to ensure attendees have the resources necessary to provide safe and effective patient care.

"Any error is one error too many," Zietman said. "We will remain devoted to these Target Safely goals until the possibility of error is eliminated."

For more information: www.astro.org/TargetSafely

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