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Q&A with Brian Kavanagh ASTRO president

Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | September 19, 2017
Rad Oncology Radiation Therapy
From the September 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine


HCB News: In what positive and negative ways has the rise in technology impacted oncologists?
BK: The broadest-reaching development in health-related technology is the widespread implementation of electronic medical records, and most agree it has produced both good effects and unintended consequences. Improving the legibility of charts and prescriptions clearly benefits patient safety, but we haven’t yet figured out how electronics can adequately improve workflow efficiency. The current level of required documentation for patient care is quite burdensome, and that is a parallel problem to fix.

HCB News: Do you have any concerns about the repeal of the ACA?

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BK: Our concerns are simple and echo the concerns raised by the entire house of medicine. ASTRO wants all cancer patients to have access to proper care. We oppose the use of pre-existing conditions to deny insurance coverage. We support screening and prevention programs. At the same time, we recognize a need to find efficiencies where possible, and we want to be at the table to help find that compromise.

HCB News: What are you most excited about seeing at this year’s ASTRO annual meeting?
BK: Everything! First, the keynote speakers are outstanding. On Monday, Dr. Richard Zane, chief innovation officer for University of Colorado Health, discusses how new technology is restructuring patient-doctor interactions. Tuesday’s plenary is a fireside chat between Dr. Heather Wakelee and Dr. Lucy Kalanithi, co-author of “When Breath Becomes Air,” a best-selling memoir about a young neurosurgeon’s reflections during treatment for lung cancer. Finally, on Wednesday, we hear from Dr. Vinay Prasad of OHSU, one of the most outspoken and insightful leaders of the coming generation.

Sunday’s presidential symposium will feature innovative science, the challenge of quantifying quality and the art of caring for patients in [the] late stages of their disease. Additionally, thousands of scientific presentations are accompanied by dozens of expert panel discussions on topics including the immunogenic effects of radiation, the physician’s role in the current opioid crisis and potential uses of artificial intelligence in radiation oncology, among many others.

HCB News: How will radiation oncology change in the next 10 years?
BK: I think that the field will continue to transform itself scientifically and that the great science in the lab right now will translate into meaningful, value-enhancing clinical benefits. Combined with novel agents and informed by genetic data, radiation therapy will become even more individualized. I am optimistic that innovation will foster improved patient outcomes all around.

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