Radiation therapy equipment vendors to test system integration

The American Society for Radiation Oncology will host a connectathon at its headquarters in Fairfax, Va., this September as part of the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise - Radiation Oncology (IHE-RO) initiative to promote seamless connectivity and integration of radiotherapy equipment and patient health information systems.

The goal of this multi-year project is to reduce medical errors and improve efficiency by allowing physicians to purchase the best equipment for their practices, regardless of the manufacturer. This connectathon will be the final step in a process that has included vendor development, software testing and real-time interconnectivity testing.

"ASTRO is honored to be a leader of such a critical initiative as the IHE project," said Laura I. Thevenot, ASTRO's chief executive officer. "By ensuring that vendors meet the IHE-RO integration requirements, we are enabling radiation oncology teams to better implement the advanced technology available to them and better communicate vital information to the men and women undergoing treatment for cancer. I congratulate all the vendors participating in this initiative that I believe will help lead to more seamless patient care."

Allowing physicians to purchase the best equipment for their practices, regardless of manufacturer, will hopefully reduce medical errors as healthcare staff will no longer have to re-enter information because systems are unable to communicate. This will also allow equipment makers to focus on developing their niche systems rather than forcing them to produce an entire product line.

The upcoming event will be the third connectathon that ASTRO has spearheaded as part of IHE-RO. The most recent event was held last summer in Houston at the Proton Therapy Center at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Connectathon participants included BrainLAB, CMS-Elekta-IMPAC, Nucletron, Philips, Varian, Siemens, MIMVista and TomoTherapy. Participants were required to demonstrate their ability to accept information from at least three different vendors and have their information accepted by three different systems for various aspects of the treatment planning process. Two distinct workflows, known as profiles, were available for the vendors to test against as appropriate for their products and the roles, known as actors, their products play in the workflow.

The 2008 connectathon was very successful. All vendors achieved a passing mark for at least one of the roles their products play. This included passing the IHE-RO test suite, which involved computer software testing that the vendors submitted prior to the connectathon in order to validate the base functionality of the products, and the IHE-RO connectathon testing, which was performed between manufacturers live during the connectathon, by proving that the applications they submitted for testing conformed to the particular IHE-RO integration profile. These vendors were invited to the IHE-RO public demonstration held at ASTRO's 50th Annual Meeting in Boston in fall 2008.

IHE-RO is a branch of Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise project, which began in 2004 under the direction of the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society and the Radiological Society of North America as a way to improve the way that healthcare computer systems share information. IHE-RO involves the integration of radiotherapy equipment specifically and, when successfully implemented, provides for radiotherapy equipment produced by different vendors to work together and share information more efficiently.

ASTRO is the largest radiation oncology society in the world, with more than 10,000 members who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. As the leading organization in radiation oncology, biology and physics, the Society is dedicated to improving patient care through education, clinical practice, advancement of science and advocacy. For more information on radiation therapy, visit www.rtanswers.org.

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