Living in the age of big data can be a blessing and a curse for medical physicists. The more data there is, the more physicists have to draw from when ensuring effective imaging that leads to accurate diagnoses. Without the right tools, however, too much data can be a burden, forcing medical physicists to spend long hours analyzing critical data.
The Journey of Quadrant
Error-Prone Linear Accelerators
An example of a data-heavy process is commissioning a linear accelerator, an essential radiation therapy tool that delivers high-energy electron or x-ray beams at tumors in cancer patients. During the commissioning process, a medical physicist compares data from the linear accelerator against that of a treatment planning system (TPS) to see whether the data matches. The process involves analyzing hundreds of PD curves, profiles, and scatter measurements, and unfortunately it leaves plenty of room for mistakes.
Upon observing medical physicists spending literal weeks poring over spreadsheets in order to commission linear accelerators, Alyzen began developing Quadrant, cloud-based software designed to dramatically streamline and strengthen the data analysis processes involved with commissioning linear accelerators. After ten years of meticulous work—including teaching the software to understand different file formats from different systems—Alyzen made Quadrant available to medical physicists across the nation, and the results have been impressive.
Progress in Action
The data analysis necessary for the commissioning process, which traditionally takes as long as four weeks to complete, can be completed by Quadrant in four days. Not only does Quadrant automate the process of comparing critical data sets in a precise manner—it can identify data sets that might be easy for a human analyst to miss, ensuring a comprehensive analysis of every aspect of the linear accelerator and TPS. Once the process is complete, the click of a button produces a scorecard and a hundred-page report detailing the linear accelerator’s performance relative to requirements laid out by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) and the American College of Radiology (ACR).
Quadrant’s job isn’t done after the commission process. It’s also designed to continue providing fast and accurate quality assurance throughout a linear accelerator’s lifetime by comparing subsequent QA measurements against the initial commissioning data. This process is also relatively quick, encouraging medical physicists to perform QA more often than they might otherwise and thus helping identify problems before they can have a negative impact on patient care.
Think of the old system of TPS commissioning as car travel and Quadrant as plane travel. In addition to being dramatically faster, Quadrant is dramatically safer, providing a holistic view of the system’s performance with acute precision. Improving speed and safety at the same time is rare, but this is what Quadrant offers.
Such a drastic reduction in the amount of time it takes to safely commission and provide quality assurance for a linear accelerator has profound implications for health systems looking to simultaneously streamline quality assurance and enhance safety. Faster, more accurate commissioning means bringing more linear accelerators online more quickly, which in turn means more treatment plans for more patients. This is a huge benefit for any health system, and most importantly, for the patients in need of fast, safe, and effective care.
Quadrant has been successfully deployed across numerous health systems, including throughout the Apex Physics Partners network, and Alyzen continues to find new uses for the software, including for augmenting the absolute dose calibration protocol Task Group 51. And as Quadrant is based in the cloud, future updates can be shipped to users and put into use quickly and easily.
Because they know their job matters so much, medical physicists are fastidious when it comes to ensuring safe and accurate systems. Many willingly spend late nights sifting through commissioning and QA data. But with Quadrant, this is no longer necessary: medical physicists have an opportunity to spend their valuable time and talent exploring other aspects of improving patient care.
Advance Your Practice
Encouraging partners to adopt Quadrant for commissioning and quality assurance is just one of the ways in which Apex Physics Partners is using the latest technology to improve the field of medical physics as a whole. In addition to brainstorming exciting ways to leverage cutting-edge innovations, we work with our partners to help integrate said innovations in ways that make sense for their practices. Get in touch to see how Apex Physics Partners’ technology can improve your practice operations.
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