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Increasing Demand on Human Capital and Resource Utilization in Radiation Therapy: The Past Decade

Published:September 17, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijrobp.2021.09.020

      Purpose

      To quantify the change resource utilization in radiation therapy in the context of advancing technologies and techniques over the last decade.

      Methods and Materials

      Prospectively, the time to complete radiation therapy workflow tasks was captured between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020. The institutional task workflows are specific to each technique and broadly organized into 4 categories: 3-dimenstional conformal radiation therapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy, volumetric modulated arc therapy simple, and volumetric modulated arc therapy complex. These discipline-specific task times were used to quantify a resource utilization factor, which is the median time taken to complete all tasks for each category divided by the median time for 3-dimensional conformal radiation therapy treatments. Retrospectively, all plans treated between January 1, 2012, and December 31, 2019, were quantified and categorized. The resource factor was applied to determine resource utilization. For context, institutional staffing levels were captured across the same decade for medical dosimetrists, medical physicists, and radiation oncologists.

      Results

      This analysis includes 30,229 patient plans in the retrospective data set and 4747 patient plans in the prospective data set. This analysis demonstrates that over this period, patient numbers increased by approximately 45%, whereas time-based human resources increased by almost 150%. The resource allocation factors for 3-dimenstional conformal radiation therapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy, volumetric modulated arc therapy simple, and volumetric arc therapy complex were 1.0, 2.4, 2.9, and 4.3, respectively. Across the 3 disciplines, staffing levels increased from 15 to 17 (13%) for medical dosimetrists, from 10 to 13 (30%) for medical physicists, and from 16 to 23 (44%) for radiation oncologists.

      Conclusions

      This work demonstrates the increase in resource utilization due to the introduction of advanced technologies and changes in radiation therapy techniques over the past decade. Human resource utilization is the predominant factor and should be considered with increasing patient volume for operational planning.
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