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Online Auditing of Radiation Oncologists Encourages Use of Evidence-Based Clinical Pathways, UPMC Study Finds

MIAMI BEACH, Oct. 5, 2011 – Implementing and auditing evidence-based guidelines developed to treat a specific disease, called clinical pathways, in a large, comprehensive cancer center network successfully changed physician practice patterns, improved patient care and reduced health care costs, according to UPMC Cancer Centers research presented today in Miami Beach at the American Society for Radiation Oncology annual meeting.

According to the researchers, the purpose of the study was to determine whether a clinical pathway that was implemented in 2004 for palliative radiation therapy for cancer that had spread to the bone changed practice patterns throughout more than 25 UPMC Cancer Centers in western Pennsylvania. In 2009, physicians throughout the network were required to enter their patient management plans for that pathway into an online system for monitoring.

“Prior to the online auditing, we found community physicians were more likely than academic physicians to recommend longer courses of radiation therapy for palliative care, when shorter courses of treatment were effective,” said Sushil Beriwal, M.D., a radiation oncologist with UPMC Cancer Centers who led the study. “This difference remained despite the implementation of the clinical pathway, but it changed once we started the online auditing portion of the study. The auditing encouraged our academic and community physicians to favor a shorter course of treatment, which reduced the radiation levels that patients were exposed to while still managing their pain. It allowed us to establish a uniformity of care throughout the network and lowered costs as well.”

This study was sponsored by UPMC Cancer Centers.

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