Prevalence of software alerts in radiotherapy

Petra Reijnders-Thijssen*, Diana Geerts, Wouter van Elmpt, Todd Pawlicki, Andrew Wallis, Mary Coffey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Radiotherapy software messages (sometimes called alerts, pop-up windows, alarms, or error messages) to the user appear continuously on computer screens. These software messages sometimes require decisions to be made as to the next appropriate action. However, mainly these messages are for information only. Dealing with software messages is a well-recognized problem in healthcare and has contributed to catastrophic events both outside and within radiotherapy. The purpose of this work is to highlight the prevalence and raise awareness within the radiotherapy community of such software messages related to external beam radiation therapy procedures at the linear accelerator. Radiation Therapists (RTTs) were asked to record the type and frequency of software message over 50 fractions and for 50 different patients. The data was collected at 6 institutions in the Netherlands using linear accelerators from Elekta, Ltd. and Varian Medical Systems, Inc. Results show that linear accelerator software messages (including record and verify) occur at a rate of about 8.9 messages per patient fraction. This number of software messages is potentially impacting on patient safety as these messages range in level of importance. The impact and potential reduction of these software messages should be the focus of future research and improved implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-35
Number of pages4
JournalTechnical Innovations and Patient Support in Radiation Oncology
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


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