One simple change can reduce frequent cancer imaging by half – Penn: Office of University Communications

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Simply introducing a default physician order—a “nudge”—into electronic health records (EHRs) cut the use of unnecessary daily imaging in half during palliative radiation therapy sessions for patients with advanced cancer, according to a Penn Medicine study published in JAMA Oncology. While daily imaging is typically used in curative cancer treatment, national guidelines recommend providers transition to weekly imaging for palliative radiotherapy sessions. Daily imaging unnecessarily extends the duration of each radiation therapy session for palliative care patients who are often in pain or discomfort from the progression of cancer.

Medical linear accelerator in a therapeutic oncology unit.

“We recognized that patients were undergoing unnecessary scans due to the standard care habits, and we understood that this frequent imaging was causing more discomfort than benefit,” said the study’s lead author Sonam Sharma, an assistant professor of radiation oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who conducted this research while in the Perelman School of Medicine. “This shows that a minor adjustment can have a dramatic effect on medical practice.”

The study took place across five Penn Medicine radiation oncology practices in New Jersey and Pennsylvania between 2016 and 2018, and included more than 1,000 patients undergoing palliative radiotherapy for cancers that had spread to other organs, including bone, soft tissue, and the brain.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.

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