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Integrated Software Handles Complex Radiation Therapy

Integrated Software Handles Complex Radiation Therapy

OTTAWA, Canada—Radiation oncology has always been a resource- and data-intensive discipline, and the increasing use of intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) has made the process of delivering radiation to cancer patients even more complex.

MDS Nordion is one of several companies offering integrated software solutions designed to smooth the workflow through improved data acquisition, storage, and dissemination. It exhibited its Oncentra software at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meeting in New Orleans.

‘‘The Oncentra suite of products has been pulled together in order to integrate a solution that starts with image capture and goes all the way through to long-term archiving and evidence-based medicine possibilities," Ken Johnson, vice president of Oncology Software Solutions at MDS Nordion, told ONI.

The process of installing Oncentra software starts with a consultation with the client. "Many clinics, particularly in the United States, really have no IT [information technology] resources at their disposal. So we sit down with the client and design a system that meets their needs," Mr. Johnson said. "We do the systems integration and project management, and train hospital staff to use the system, so it gets up and running in the way the client intended."

The company can even design the screen display of the patient information to look like the clinic’s previous paper-based system, which, he said, cuts down on training time.

The image capture software brings images from various imaging modalities into the treatment planning software package using the industry’s standardized DICOM (digital communication) and DICOM-RT formats. The treatment plan is then tested on a simulator.

Another software package takes the parameters from the treatment planning package and controls the delivery device, specifying gantry angles, patient positioning, and radiation delivery. It then records the data into an electronic patient folder, which includes all of the information on an individual patient, ranging from laboratory reports to nursing notes.

Another important function of the Oncentra software is patient and resource scheduling, "which is a very demanding operation in this discipline," Mr. Johnson said. He said that most hospitals today are still scheduling manually. "To do it at the touch of a button results in huge savings in labor and efficiency," he said.

The information is in a distributed Windows platform, he said, so that the patient electronic folders are available at any desktop to those with access. "Physicists, for example, can do their part of the treatment planning process from their office, wherever that may be," he said.

The client licenses the Oncentra software via fixed licenses, meaning the li-censee always has access, and floating licenses, meaning that a pool of people share a license and only a specified number have access at one time. "The purpose of the floating licenses is to keep cost down," Mr. Johnson said. The software keeps a log of who has accessed the data, when they accessed it, and what information they saw.

Data Version Control

Having all of the data in one location provides the clinic with several major benefits, Mr. Johnson said. One is data version control—"the safety of knowing that whenever you’re looking at a data element, it is the most current data element," he said.

Another benefit is that clinics can have the freedom, as they expand and improve, to buy hardware and software from any vendor they want, due to the fact that all of the Oncentra software is built to DICOM and DICOM-RT standards.

The software also allows clinics to pull together archived data from all of its cancer patients so it can be analyzed and used for evidence-based medicine. Finally, the system promotes the ability to share resources through telemedicine. "Physicists at a central location, for example, can send information to the community hospital where the treatment is given," he said. 

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