How Can We Help?

After 25 years, ACR Radiation Oncology Accreditation is still the gold can we help

If you represent a radiation oncology practice and want to show patients, communities, payers, and physicians that you're dedicated to providing the highest quality care, where do you turn?

For more than 25 years, the answer for more than 400 groups has been the ACR and its Radiation Oncology Accreditation program.

In fact, radiation oncology was among the first subspecialties for which the College developed an accreditation process. Since then, this critical subspecialty has evolved considerably, and the Committee on Radiation Oncology Practice Accreditation has kept pace with this evolution while remaining committed to the education and promotion of safety and quality.

Dedication Accreditation Team

patrick conway"This is volunteer work," says Patrick D. Conway, MD, FACR, committee chair and radiation oncologist at Gundersen Lutheran Health System in La Crosse, Wisc. "It's something that resonates deeply with all of the members of the committee — we're here to serve the individuals and facilities that want to improve the safety and quality of care delivered."

The accreditation program itself is also voluntary. Facility representatives begin the process by completing an application at From there, an on-site survey is scheduled. "This is the way that ACR accreditation adds value [to practices]," says Conway. "We provide a third-party, in-depth evaluation of the care being delivered." But it's not a finger-wagging session. As Conway, who has participated in more than 50 facility visits, notes, "It's not a punitive assessment."

During a typical preplanned site visit, a medical physicist and radiation oncologist review, among other data, charts of recent patients, the group's quality improvement program, and technical aspects of treatment. This board-certified team also conducts interviews with key personnel such as the medical director. The entire visit is usually completed in one day.

"The whole process if very collegial," says Conway. "We're there to help, and we're there to learn. I get the impression that most of these folks look forward to seeing our on-site team and receiving ideas on how to enhance and improve their practices. I know that's how I feel [when our facility is reviewed]."

Conway also finds that many of the groups pursuing accreditation have already made improvements prior to the on-site visit. "Clearly, this step of becoming ACR accredited is used, in such cases, to further promote quality and safety within all of the practice's personnel," he adds. And although he shares the responsibility of conducting these surveys with other committee members, it's Conway's name that goes on every report, regardless of the outcome. "In this leadership position, I can help chart a path for the programmatic development of the accreditation program," he says.

Keeping Up With Technology

Part of that path is determined by shifts in technology. And though technology can change quickly — for example, the development of intensity modulated radiation therapy, which Conway feels is the most significant radiation oncology advancement in the last decade — the accreditation committee members stay on top of new developments. This dedication to "what's new" is in part due to the committee's close connection to the ACR Committee on Guidelines and Standards. "As technology evolves, this other committee creates guidelines for radiation oncology," Conway explains. "We work closely with these guidelines and standards to help facilities meet a certain level of quality required for accreditation."

Although his term as chair was scheduled to end this spring, Conway will stay on in this role and continue to conduct site surveys and meet dedicated radiation oncologists, physicists, and other staff. Meanwhile, accreditation applicants will see his name on their reports, which will hopefully also say, "Welcome to the ACR Family of Accredited Facilities."

By Raina Keefer

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