The Department of Veterans Affairs, ASTRO, and Washington University Combine Forces to Drive Better Care for Veterans With Cancer


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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has announced a new Radiation Oncology Practice Assessment (ROPA) program to leverage recent advances in information technology to improve radiation therapy cancer care for our nation’s veterans.

VA is working with the American Society for Radiation Oncology ­(ASTRO) and Washington University to provide radiation oncologists with continuous feedback on the progress of cancer therapy.

“We are pleased to be working with this country’s leading-class organizations on this innovative program, the first of its kind nationwide. Our veterans deserve nothing less,” said Maureen McCarthy, MD, VA Acting Assistant Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Patient Care Services.

ROPA Details

Under ROPA, data will be abstracted from the VA’s highly sophisticated electronic medical record system and the treatment management systems used to control radiation therapy delivery. Feedback reports will be provided to VA radiation oncologists with a detailed analysis of each patient treatment compared against national standards. Combined with the traditional cancer outcome measures of recurrence and patient survival, this assessment will provide the oncologist with a complete picture of the accuracy of each patient’s therapy and the patient’s response to therapy.

Washington University is excited to take the lead role in managing the program. “We have significant experience working with the National Cancer Institute to provide the platform we will use for these assessments. We are excited to bring that experience to bear on this landmark project on behalf of our nation’s veterans,” said Jeff ­Michalski, MD, Washington University’s Vice-Chair of Radiation Oncology. “We are also pleased to engage a local radiation oncology informatics company, Radialogica LLC, who will provide a platform and services for data security, extraction, and management.”

In the first year of the project, ­ASTRO’s disease site–specific experts will review measures for prostate and lung cancers, identifying metrics from electronic medical records to assess each one.

Once ROPA is fully implemented, VA radiation oncologists will receive continuously updated electronic peer reviews of each patient’s cancer evaluation, treatment, and treatment outcome. Currently, VA hospitals, similar to community hospitals, use traditional, sporadic peer reviews in a process referred to as Ongoing Professional Peer Evaluation (OPPE). ROPA peer reviews go well beyond the traditional OPPE and practice accreditation to create comprehensive, patient-centered reports in a web-based environment. VA radiation oncologists will see how changes in their clinical practice impact the success of each veteran’s cancer treatment. ■



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