In conversations with our clients, partners and colleagues, we identified a few trends that the industry should be thinking about to integrate services, improve the patient experience and provide the best possible treatment:
- Advancements in patient imaging drives better care: Advanced radiotherapy, such as conformal 3D, IMRT, VMAT, SBRT, IGRT and other treatment delivery techniques, are commonplace in today’s radiation therapy department, and are helping clinicians provide exceptional patient care. However, clinicians are also looking for new and improved CT imaging features and reconstruction algorithms to increase diagnostic confidence and provide high-quality images to better define the areas being treated. These new CT technologies are making imaging more consistent, assisting with identifying tumor motion, removing artifacts from metal and reducing or eliminating CT image noise. This ultimately allows clinicians to have a better representation of the patient for accurate patient contouring, treatment plans and treatment deliveries.
- Technology improves patient treatment experience: Integration of imaging and planning applications, as well as seamless connectivity from treatment planning to therapy delivery, are the next wave. Integrating imaging with treatment planning helps the clinical team tailor the workflow to match their resources, while making treatment planning more efficient and lowering the potential for mistakes. New application capabilities, such as automating repetitive tasks, improving data handling in each step of the process and providing greater access to the data and applications throughout the workflow, help the healthcare team treat patients more effectively and efficiently, which ultimately can result in a better patient treatment experience.
- Partnership in treatment is key: Collaboration between patients and clinicians has never been more important. While radiation oncology is a complex practice that requires technical experience and planning, there are still opportunities for patients to participate in the decisions made in their treatment and care plans. Research tells us that improved communication and shared decision making between providers and patients helps facilitate a smoother patient experience and more satisfaction with care. It’s critical that we don’t forget about the importance of a simple conversation with patients while we pursue technologies that enhance our work.
- Importance of dose management in treatment planning: As radiation therapy treatment techniques become more conformal and higher doses of radiation are prescribed and delivered, routine patient CT imaging is critical to ensure that accuracy of the planned treatment is maintained; or to indicate when re-planning may be necessary to continue to deliver treatment dose in the most precise way for the patient. Dose management during imaging will become important as the use of CT imaging grows as part of managing a patient’s treatment course. Imaging with CT for radiation therapy can be performed for simulation, daily set-up, adaptive planning, retreatments, therapy follow-up and monitoring – all of which can contribute to a patient’s cumulative lifetime dose for radiation exposure. It is important to be able to image patients throughout their course of treatment and to evaluate how effective treatment was after therapy is completed. Dose management tools are increasingly important for this patient population to help maintain image quality while managing the dose a patient receives during each imaging episode.
- The growing trend for multi-modal technology: Multi-modality imaging for radiotherapy planning has become the standard of care. Often, different modalities can offer complementary information that can help improve the accuracy of the treatment plan. We have seen that CT, PET/CT, MRI image data and other types of imaging can be registered or “fused” with planning CTs to aide with the segmentation of tumors and critical structures, with the ultimate goal of increased accuracy for the treatment plan. This trend has grown from academic institutions and comprehensive cancer centers to community cancer centers, as multi-modal technology is needed for the best possible patient treatments and care.
To meet these imaging demands, vendors like Philips are developing and manufacturing imaging systems designed specifically for radiation therapy departments. As this technology progresses we are likely to see new solutions take hold – such as standalone MRI simulators that can produce images suitable for treatment planning along with treatment delivery units that use MRI for on-board patient imaging.
Across care settings, we continue to see innovations that are changing how clinicians communicate with one another and coordinate and deliver care, as well as improvements that enhance patient experience and yield better health care. It’s an exciting time in radiation oncology, with advancements and innovations entering the workplace regularly. But it is imperative for us to continue driving technologies and process improvements that continue to better the work of clinicians and the health of patients.
Learn more about Philips’ solutions for radiation oncology.