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Ensuring the safety of radiation therapy
Date:5/19/2011

NEW HYDE PARK, NY -- Radiation oncologists took a blow in a series of front-page newspaper stories published last year on injuries that occurred nationwide in the delivery of radiation treatment. Radiation oncologists at North Shore-LIJ Health System responded to the public charge with a series of steps that will ensure that patients are protected at all points in the treatment process.

Louis Potters, MD, North Shore-LIJ's chairman of radiation medicine, and his colleagues designed a new program that seeks to improve the quality of complex processes by identifying and removing the causes of errors, and reducing variables that increase the risk of mistakes. North Shore-LIJ has literally adjusted for complex technical challenges in the hardware and software that delivers the radiation by ensuring that nothing is rushed.

Patients do not get on the table until every step is accounted for. "We want to ensure that our patients are safe," said Dr. Potters, who presented the pilot program recently at the American Radium Society Annual Meeting.

Just imagine all the tasks that must be in place before a patient enters the surgical suite, which is a one-time event. Planning for radiation therapy that is delivered daily for weeks requires the efforts of many caregivers, with coordinated handoffs of complex information. It is important that this happens in an aligned and controlled way, and not rushed. The safety program is specifically designed to decrease the risk of errors due to last-minute, and hurried work.

Understanding the risk for error, Dr. Potters identified all the applications that go into delivering the therapy and then set out to use the clinic as a laboratory to understand the processes. He and his colleagues basically mapped the process every step of the way. "The research was necessary to identify the appropriate processes of care, break it down into the eight key components of care and make sure every step is in place
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Contact: Jamie Talan
jtalan@nshs.edu
516-465-8314
North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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