Lukasz Mazur, Assistant Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) and UNC School of Medicine (SOM), has been awarded a $785,000 grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to support a three-year project titled “Simulation-Based Research to Enhance Performance of Radiation Therapists.”
Errors in radiation therapy (RT) are estimated to occur in up to 5% of the more than 600,000 patients receiving RT per year in the U.S., with serious/lethal events occurring at a rate of about 1 in 1,000-10,000 patients. Mazur’s project aims to develop and assess the impact of and generalized simulation based training and neurofeedback intervention on radiation therapists mental workload, situation awareness, and performance.
“Radiation therapy therapists, or RTTs, are the professionals who deliver the prescribed radiation and thus are the last line of defense to catch any upstream errors,” Mazur said. “Indeed, about 40% of the errors reported to a national event registry were discovered by RTTs.”
Traditionally, RTTs performed quality assurance with an active, hands-on mindset, completing tasks such as checking the light field or measurements on the patient’s skin, Mazur explained. With the advent of newer technologies, RTTs perform quality assurance efforts in a more-passive manner, relying on computer-generated data.
“Given the present safety gap within the RT field, and the key role that RTT’s play in the detection of errors and in the delivery of the treatment, there is a critical need to develop and assess the impact of simulation-based training on RTT’s performance,” Mazur said.
The AHRQ grant will enable Mazur and his team to develop new, innovative simulation-based trainings and measure their impact. The grant will also provide support for radiation oncology residents working on the project and summer internships for SILS graduate students.
In addition to his joint appointment with SILS and the SOM, Mazur directs the Division of Healthcare Engineering (DHE) based at the Radiation Oncology Department in the SOM. He is a core faculty member in the interdisciplinary Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP).
Mazur holds a BS, MS, and PhD in industrial and management engineering from Montana State University, and previously received funding from AHRQ to develop simulation-based training and innovative usability enhancements for electronic health records. While at North Carolina State University, Mazur received the prestigious Alumni Outstanding Extension Service Award for his outreach work in the healthcare industry, highlighting his passion for patient safety and operational improvements.