New Radiation Rules Proposed

The American Society for Radiation Oncology just announced that it has committed to a six-point patient protection plan to improve safety and quality and to reduce the chances of <"">medical errors involving radiation, said ASTRO Board Chairman Tim R. Williams, M.D. ASTRO is the largest radiation oncology society in the world.

“ASTRO’s highest priority has always been ensuring patients receive the safest, most effective treatments by providing tools and professional guidance to our members. We have been developing and refining many of these programs for years and they have been making a huge difference in the quality of cancer treatment,” said Dr. Williams. Williams is a practicing radiation oncologist at Boca Raton Community Hospital in Boca Raton, Florida. “It is frightening to receive the diagnosis of cancer, and completing treatment successfully should be the primary concern of cancer patients and their families. They need to know that their treatments are as safe as possible, period,” Dr. Williams added.

The six-point plan, which was issued by the ASTRO Board of Directors, followed a systemic review of the Society’s patient safety and quality assurance projects that included improving safety when medical radiation is administered and also involves the creation of a database for specific medial errors. According to the New York Times, this database will receive error reports on linear accelerators and CT scanners. Linear accelerators are, said the NY Times, the devices that generate radiation.

The plan also includes launching an accreditation program, expanding its educational training programs, working with patient support organizations to develop tools for cancer patients and caregivers, enhancing its Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise – Radiation Oncology (IHE-RO) connectivity compliance program, and providing its members’ expertise to policymakers and advocating for new and expanded federal initiatives to help protect patients.

Regarding reports about significant radiation therapy errors, Dr. Williams acknowledged that such information is of serious concern to the Society saying, “In any area of medicine, and radiation oncology is no exception, even one error is too many…. Any errors, no matter how small, must be reported, understood and used as a tool to further reduce the potential for future errors. ASTRO is committed to leading the way to helping physicians and treatment teams do just that.”

The NY Times added that ASTRO will seek federal legislation for national radiation therapy treatment team standards and will seek increased means for the Radiological Physics Center. The Center is, explained the NY Times, a group that evaluates treatment safety.

ASTRO’s review followed two NY Times articles discussing the adverse reactions that can occur when problems take place during radiation therapy. Due to increases in technological complexity involved in the operation of these machines, there have been concerns that quality assurance (QA) does not match the upgrades, noted the NY Times.

Although infrequent, the Times noted that accidents were difficult to determine and tend to go unreported.

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