Directly Improving the Quality of Radiation Treatment Through Peer Review: A Cross-sectional Analysis of Cancer Centers Across a Provincial Cancer Program
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PURPOSE: To describe the outcomes of peer review across all 14 cancer centers in Ontario. METHODS AND MATERIALS: We identified all peer-reviewed, curative treatment plans delivered in Ontario within a 3-month study period from 2013 to 2014 using a provincial cancer treatment database and collected additional data on the peer-review outcomes. RESULTS: Considerable variation was found in the proportion of peer-reviewed plans across the centers (average 70.2%, range 40.8%-99.2%). During the study period, 5561 curative plans underwent peer review. Of those, 184 plans (3.3%) had changes recommended. Of the 184 plans, the changes were major (defined as requiring repeat planning or having a major effect on planning or clinical outcomes, or both) in 40.2% and minor in 47.8%. For the remaining 12.0%, data were missing. The proportions of recommended changes varied among disease sites (0.0%-7.0%). The disease sites with the most recommended changes to treatment plans after peer review and with the greatest potential for benefit were the esophagus (7.0%), uterus (6.7%), upper limb (6.3%), cervix and lower limb (both 6.0%), head and neck and bilateral lung (both 5.9%), right supraclavicular lymph nodes (5.7%), rectum (5.3%), and spine (5.0%). Although the heart is an organ at risk in left-sided breast treatment plans, the proportions of recommended changes did not significantly differ between the left breast treatment plans (3.0%, 95% confidence interval 2.0%-4.5%) and right breast treatment plans (2.4%, 95% confidence interval 1.5%-3.8%). The recommended changes were more frequently made when peer review occurred before radiation therapy (3.8%) than during treatment (1.4%-2.8%; P=.0048). The proportion of plans with recommended changes was not significantly associated with patient volume (P=.23), peer-review performance (P=.36), or center academic status (P=.75). CONCLUSIONS: Peer review of treatment plans directly affects the quality of care by identifying important clinical and planning changes. Provincial strategies are underway to optimize its conduct in radiation oncology.