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SCIENCE HIGHLIGHTS of the 50th AAPM Meeting in Houston, July 27 to July 31

11. PREVENTING MEDICAL ERRORS IN RADIATION THERAPY

One of the worst possible outcomes of any type of medical care is when the treatment someone receives causes them unexpected harm due to an error or failure in the health care system. Preventable medical errors occur in all areas of health care, and by some estimates they are widespread. According to an Institute of Medicine report released in 1999, at least 44,000 people and perhaps as many as 98,000 people die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented.

Like all hospital disciplines, the field of medical physics has a responsibility to try to eliminate preventable medical errors. The AAPM has a working group on preventing errors in radiation oncology, and since the turn of the century has worked to enhance the safety and quality of patient care.

One of the issues that has emerged in the last few years is the increasing need to develop more and more sophisticated safety and quality assurance measures to adequately handle the complexities of advancing technology. As new and sophisticated technology has improved the ability to deliver radiation more accurately, conforming doses to the tumors being treated for instance, it has also increased the complexity of the instruments and procedures. With increasing complexity come more opportunities for errors, and so new medical physics technologies have also created the need for new safety measures that are equally sophisticated.

Peter Dunscombe (peterdun@cancerboard.ab.ca), who is Director of Medical Physics at Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, Canada, is leading a symposium that will present an overview of the latest sophisticated safety methods used to ensure quality of care for people undergoing radiation therapy. He and his co-participants will also examine how audits of safety and quality assurance programs might be conducted. They will discuss a European database that allows information on medical errors to be shared internationally, and they will examine errors from the point of view of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Symposium WE-C-350-1, "Quality in Radiation Therapy: what is it and how do you achieve it?" is at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday July 30, 2008 in Room: 350.
Abstract: http://www.aapm.org/meetings/amos2/pdf/35-9898-12791-679.pdf.

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HOW TO COVER THE MEETING

Reporters who would like to attend the meeting in person should fill out the press registration form on the AAPM Virtual Press Room. See: http://www.aapm.org/meetings/08AM/VirtualPressRoom/documents/pressregform.pdf.

Reporters who would like to cover the conference remotely will find releases and articles on the Virtual Press Room highlighting many of the interesting and important talks presented at the meeting. Even if you can't make it to Houston, the Virtual Press Room will make it possible to write stories about the meeting from your desk.

ABOUT AAPM

The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) is a scientific, educational, and professional nonprofit organization whose mission is to advance the application of physics to the diagnosis and treatment of human disease. The association encourages innovative research and development, helps disseminate scientific and technical information, fosters the education and professional development of medical physicists, and promotes the highest quality medical services for patients. In 2008, AAPM will celebrate its 50th year of serving patients, physicians, and physicists. Please visit the association's Web site at http://www.aapm.org/.

ABOUT AIP

Headquartered in College Park, MD., the American Institute of Physics is a not-for-profit membership corporation chartered in New York State in 1931 for the purpose of promoting the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics and its application to human welfare.

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Media contacts:

Jason Socrates Bardi, American Institute of Physics,
301-209-3091 (office) 858-775-4080 (cell)
jbardi@aip.org

Jeff Limmer, AAPM Media Relations Subcommittee Chair
jeffl@aspirus.org