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Radiation oncology: MR and CT taking on bigger roles

by Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | September 16, 2016
From the September 2016 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Dr. Patricia Hardenbergh, a radiation oncologist at Shaw Regional Cancer Center in Edwards, Colorado, has developed a website called chartrounds.com. It’s an educational forum for discussions on difficult cases between clinicians on the front lines and experts from academic medical centers. After gaining popularity in the U.S., Hardenbergh is expanding it to allow for international access to meet the demands for radiation oncology education in developing countries.

Wil Ngwa, a medical physicist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, has been leading several international initiatives. He organized a symposium in April, in which representatives from African nations and leading international health agencies discussed ways to collaborate. Varian is working to bring radiation oncology training to India, Brazil, Algeria, Vietnam, Turkey and some parts of Russia. “We have been doing this kind of work around the globe, primarily with governments that are really interested in working on adding radiation oncology to their cancer plan,” says Zankowski.

ASTRO sneak peek
Radiation oncologists from around the world gather at the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting to learn about the latest research in the field. More than 11,000 people attend the event each year. This year it will be held from Sept. 25-28 in Boston. One of the studies to be presented will address the concerns about disparities between racial groups regarding access to technology such as stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT).

“It would be tragic if safe and highly cost-effective treatments like stereotactic radiotherapy were not available widely to everyone who could benefit from it,” says Kavanagh. The question is whether or not there is a difference in insurance status for minorities and the rest of the population. The Affordable Care Act allowed more people to gain access to insurance, but cultural barriers still need to be addressed. A few of the ways Kavanagh thinks it can be solved is by providing education to groups about the proper ways to screen and treat cancers, support networks to help people get to and from their treatments and patient navigators that help keep track of appointments for tests and treatments.

Another study to be presented at ASTRO will assess the implementation of new technology in the Veterans Affairs setting. This health care delivery system has come under scrutiny for instances where resources may not have been used in an ideal manner, says Kavanagh. “It’s good to see efforts where physicians are paying attention to whether patients appear to be getting state-of-the-art treatments at the right time, delivered safely and effectively,” he adds. “It was comforting to see that there is access to the newest radiation treatment technology and that it’s utilized in a good way.”

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