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Computerized System for Safety Verification of External Beam Radiation Therapy Planning

      Purpose

      To report an assessment of in-house software, Verifier, developed to improve efficacy and efficiency of the radiation therapy (RT) treatment planning process and quality control review (QCR).

      Methods and Materials

      Radiation therapy plan parameters retrieved from our treatment planning database are used by automated tests to give 75 types of warnings, such as prescription and plan discrepancies. The software is continuously updated on the basis of new issues, ideas, and planning policies. Verifier was retrospectively assessed (2007-2015) by examining impact on treatment plan revisions, frequency of quality improvement incident reports of avoidable RT plan-related safety events, unaddressed issues, and staff efficiency.

      Results

      Plan revisions for specific issues declined dramatically in response to implementation of corresponding Verifier tests. Between 2012 and 2015 our institution's total rate of plan revisions dropped from 18.0% to 11.2%. Between 2008 and 2015 specific tests were added to Verifier while the rate of corresponding avoidable safety events was reduced from 0.34% to 0.00% over the same period. Simulations suggest Verifier saves approximately 2 to 5 minutes per QCR.

      Conclusions

      The decrease in quantifiable metrics of plan revisions and incident reports suggests automatic RT plan-checking software enhances patient safety and clinical efficiency. Although only modest time savings may be gained using Verifier for the QCR itself, the greater impact on efficiency is through avoiding late-stage plan modifications and improving documentation via automation. We encourage other institutions to consider working toward adding similar technologies to enhance their RT quality assurance programs.
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