CanadaRadiation 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
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
‘‘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
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
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
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,"