Jul 23, 2020
Software enhances safety and efficiency during Covid-19 pandemic by enabling remote plan review and contouring
The Catholic University of Chile recently became the 100th center to take advantage of an Elekta program that provides the company’s ProKnow software free-of-charge for a 90-day period. The cloud-based solution helps radiation therapy departments perform plan review and contouring remotely, thereby easing the challenges presented by Covid-19 restrictions and keeping patient treatments on track. So far, 130 centers have accessed ProKnow through the initiative.
Eugenio Vines, MD, head of the radiation therapy department and chief radiation oncologist at the Catholic University of Chile
After just five weeks of using ProKnow, Catholic University of Chile’s department of radiation oncology has increased its capacity for simultaneous working and reduced its patient waiting list to almost zero, despite pandemic lockdown constraints.
“We needed an easily accessible system that would allow physicians to collaborate and review each other’s work more easily.”
“We are an extremely busy, multi-vendor, teaching department, treating around 1,400 patients every year,” says Eugenio Vines, MD, head of the radiation therapy department and chief radiation oncologist. “We needed an easily accessible system that would allow physicians to collaborate and review each other’s work more easily. We had no online setup for this. Then we were hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, so we had the additional problem of remote working requirements.”
To protect the team and ensure appropriate distancing, the radiation oncology department had to reduce the number of people working in the clinic at one time. On a rotating basis, half the staff now works from home while the other half works at the clinic.
Increasing capacity during a time of crisis
“Before we had ProKnow, we had no reliable way for physicians to check the progress of treatment planning or structure contouring remotely,” Dr. Vines says. “We always had to have someone in front of the computer at the clinic with someone at home trying to supervise. It was not ideal. We didn’t have enough workstations and, at the beginning of the pandemic, we were faced with increasing waiting lists and greater waiting times for our patients.
“Then our regional Elekta Sales Manager, Christian Young, told us about the Elekta ProKnow initiative, allowing doctors free use of ProKnow software during Covid-19. I was not aware of ProKnow previously, but it sounded fantastic. I was all for it.”
ProKnow is a cloud-based solution that enables contouring and plan review tasks to be performed anywhere across a network, thereby enabling remote working and helping to avoid delays in patient treatment.
“One of our physicists completed some online seminars so he could set up the system,” he explains. “Other than that, no training was required. We just got on the Internet, opened the platform and started using it – it wasn’t difficult at all. The software is very intuitive. We are using it for contouring tumors and anatomy, reviewing treatment plans and evaluating DVHs. And, we are now implementing workflows, scorecards and automation of treatment evaluation.”
Dr. Vines is pleased to report that his center has made significant progress in a very short time.
“Since we implemented remote working with ProKnow, we are no longer restricted by the number of workstations in the department,” he says. “We have increased our capacity for working simultaneously and have reduced our patient waiting list to almost zero.”
Ensuring a safer working environment
While the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the department to decrease personal contact among team members, ProKnow has allowed them to continue working in a more protected environment.
“Not only are we able to maintain productivity during this crisis, but we are also able to ensure a safer, less crowded working environment.”
“All our physicians working from home are now using ProKnow,” Dr. Vines says. “Even when I am in the clinic, I am not tied to a workstation. I can simply log onto ProKnow from my office. Previously, there would be eight people working in the same room at different workstations but, now that we can work elsewhere, not only are we able to maintain productivity during this crisis, but we are also able to ensure a safer, less crowded working environment.
“ProKnow also enhances safety for our patients,” he continues. “We now have an efficient system for reviewing treatment plans and collaborating remotely. Everyone has the opportunity to review images and provide an opinion on specific treatments. We can ensure that all the necessary checks and balances – which are very important for high quality radiation treatments – are performed easily and in a timely manner. Our treatments are becoming safer and much more streamlined.”
Looking to the future
Dr. Vines and his colleagues are still getting to know ProKnow and extracting more of its capabilities, he says.
“In the future, I can see myself importing diagnostic scans into ProKnow, as well as simulation scans and treatment plans,” Dr. Vines observes. “I hope to be able to perform other tasks remotely, such as image fusions and 3D evaluation of tumors and anatomy to help optimize treatments, making them more specific and refined for each patient. By giving us greater visibility, we hope to reduce the time between simulation and treatment plan calculation, so that the patient has less time to wait before their treatment starts.
The Catholic University of Chile
“The ability to work anywhere and to rationalize the use of my time has been invaluable.”
“What we have achieved so far is wonderful, but I think the best is yet to come,” he concludes. “The ability to work anywhere and to rationalize the use of my time has been invaluable. Since I am not tied to a computer in the office, I can go home at a reasonable hour, spend time with my family, and then finish my work later in the evening. I don’t ever want to give that up now.”
Elekta’s free ProKnow initiative runs through September 2020. To take advantage of the program, click here.
ProKnow offers unique capabilities to manage data for all radiotherapy modalities and vendors, including: