Software tools with a demonstrated history of enabling safe and efficient care while reducing hands-on time – which are increasingly important in routine care – become critical when radiation oncology departments are likely to face significant personnel constraints due to staff illness and the drive toward reducing the number of onsite personnel. Innovative patient management systems can help to ensure that required steps are taken in a timely fashion to allow patients to receive treatment on time and with minimal waiting once they are on site. Remote access and cloud-based systems can allow much of the radiation therapy workflow to happen remotely and in a distributed fashion, ensuring treatment is delivered safely, effectively and on schedule.
While streamlining workflows is essential for optimizing how patients, physicians and clinical personnel move through the care delivery pathway, keeping radiation delivery systems functioning safely and effectively is also critical. Travel and hospital access restrictions may make it difficult for technicians to perform onsite maintenance, upgrades or repairs. Remote and automated equipment monitoring systems that can predict potential failure of radiation delivery equipment allows vendors and care centers to work proactively to minimize system downtime without the need for onsite activity. Online customer technical support options may minimize the need for onsite repair/maintenance visits and allow systems implementation and training to continue even when in-person training is not an option. Thus, informatics should be considered an essential component for optimizing all aspects of radiation oncology during the current pandemic.
Learning from today to enable better care tomorrow
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Much of what Covid-19 is demanding from cancer care providers today is relevant to providing value-based care on a day-to-day basis. Hypofractionated regimens reduce patient treatment burdens as well as demands on care center resources and, while this is critical during the pandemic, it also provides significant benefits during routine care delivery. Similarly, the ability for precision radiation medicine to provide oncologists and patients with potential alternative regimens that may have reduced immunosuppression helps to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19 – but it also reduces the risk of infection with many common pathogens that pose serious danger to cancer care. These approaches may now be more widely adapted as a response to the pandemic, but the benefits they provide warrant adopting them in day-to-day cancer care.