Objective quality assurance in radiation therapy

One of the great values we bring to the clinic as radiation therapy professionals is an independent objective view of the equipment and procedures.  As board-certified professionals, we are taught to always double and triple check every step of the planning and treatment process.  When I started my career, most therapy departments had a separate vendor for the linear accelerator, the record and verify system, and the treatment planning computer.  This came with some headaches as the systems didn’t always communicate well with each other, but these pieces functioned on their own and we could test them individually.

Over the past few decades, the problem of having the systems talked to each other wassolved by integrating the different components under one vendor.  While some departments may still have things pieced together, most places now have a single vendor system.  This has allowed for more streamlined processes, but it comes with a price.  Now, it’s harder to see into the black box(es).  It’s difficult to know if you have a systemic problem as information flows seamlessly from one component to another.  Thank goodness there are a lot of people working on making sure we know how to test the systems.  For example, the AAPM has provided wonderful Task Groups and professional guidelines.

The new trend in the industry is packaging staffing services with equipment and software. Physics and dosimetry services are being sold with linear accelerators or as part of system service agreements. This trend is raising some concerns that our professional objectivity is being slowly eroded.  While I believe in the professional ethics of any board-certified physicist or dosimetrist, when the system changes, it’s difficult to notice small intrinsic changes in behavior.  At Atom Physics, we take a lot of pride in staffing facilities with our contracted physicists, dosimetrists, and radiation therapists who bring objective assessments and unique experiences to provide independent assessments.

Contact us today to find out more about how we can help your department provide the highest quality patient care.