The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) has been awarded a new one-year contract from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop quality indicators (QI) for radiation treatments provided to veterans with head and neck, breast, and gastrointestinal cancers.

“This pioneering effort leverages evidence-based guidelines and the consensus of medical experts in a new and powerful way to optimize care for military veterans,” says Theodore L. DeWeese, MD, FASTRO, chair of the ASTRO Board of Directors. “VA’s leadership in this area is impressive. ASTRO is honored to work with VA in this effort to promote high quality care to our nation’s veterans.”

More than 16,000 veterans receive radiation oncology care through 40 VA clinics nationwide each year. The new metrics will support the VA Radiation Oncology Quality Surveillance program (VA-ROQS), which was established to standardize and improve services at these facilities. Recently, ASTRO partnered with VA to establish QI for lung and prostate cancers forming the evidence basis for the VA-ROQS program.

The goal of VA-ROQS is to combine information technology with clinical expertise to provide physicians with real-time, evidence-based feedback on areas of quality-related performance. Data gathered from these QI, such as radiation dosing or treatment delivery, can then be used by VA-ROQS for quality assessments that show how an individual case scores against national benchmarks and other VA practitioners. The VA-ROQS program allows VA physicians to pinpoint areas for improvement and make meaningful adjustments in their patient care.

ASTRO previously worked with VA and Washington University on the national Radiation Oncology Practice Assessment (ROPA) program. ROPA, the pilot study for VA-ROQS, created the methodology and IT infrastructure while providing comprehensive QI for VA radiation oncologists treating patients with prostate or lung cancers. From 2016 to 2018, the program evaluated more than 1,500 patient cases across the 40 VA facilities, and a recent analysis indicates that from the outset more than 80% of these cases met or exceeded quality standards.