Getting a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Doctors often move quickly to develop and pursue a treatment plan, and, for patients, it may feel difficult to step back, take a breath, and evaluate the quality of treatment services offered at various cancer clinics. However, if radiation therapy is part of the treatment plan, it is critically important.

Patients should look for the seal of approval bestowed by the American College of Radiology (ACR). This means the cancer facility follows radiation safety protocols, provides correct dosing of radiation, and uses the most modern, technologically up-to-date therapy methods.

“When seeking cancer treatment, you want to go to the best place. And the Idaho Cancer Center at EIRMC is the only one that has accreditation in Idaho,” explains Dr. Douglas Holt, a radiation oncologist with Gamma West. “Even in Boise, there are no cancer centers with ACR accreditation; none in Wyoming, and only one in Montana.

Getting ACR accreditation is a long process, and all of the large, world-renown medical institutions in the United States apply. The Mayo Clinic, Memorial Sloan Kettering, MD Anderson, Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts General, and the Huntsman Cancer Institute are all accredited through the ACR. It’s a big deal, and it’s not easy; and that’s a good thing for patients.

So, what does all of this mean for Idaho residents? As simply stated by Dr. Holt, “We offer the same high-quality cancer treatment to patients in Idaho as is offered by the major hospital systems around the country. That means many of our patients don’t have to leave the state to get the best radiation therapy that’s available. They can be assured that they will get the best care right here, in Idaho Falls.”

“Accreditation is a peer-review process that ensures patients are getting the highest quality of care available. If you are being treated with radiation, you want to know that the center is doing it safely.”

As explained on the American College of Radiology website, “Accreditation is a powerful tool for distinguishing high-quality programs from those that have not met the rigorous review requirements.”

As Travis Evans, director of the Idaho Cancer Center at EIRMC, explained, “This was approximately a two-year journey that was accomplished with the involvement of the entire team. The ACR’s criteria has a heavy focus on radiation safety, improving quality care, and optimized patient outcomes, therefore affecting every role in our department.

“During an ACR survey, they evaluate facility environment to include: personnel, equipment, QA [quality assurance] and QC [quality control], peer review, patient safety, staff safety, and policies and procedures. There was a tremendous amount that went into each of these categories for our team.”

It includes on-site evaluation conducted by experts in the field of radiation oncology. The evaluators examine every aspect of care, including chart reviews, patient outcomes, safety protocols, cleanliness, and the credentials/certifications of doctors and clinical staff members.

Furthermore, even after spending two years to complete the initial process, getting accredited is not a “one-and-done” deal.

“We have to re-apply every three years,” said Dr. Holt. “And all of the radiation treatment types we offer have to pass before we get accredited.”

Reapplication for renewal is a really important aspect of the accreditation process, especially because, as Dr. Holt points out, “there have been many advances in cancer treatment technology. You don’t want to go somewhere that uses older methods. The newer treatments, like HDR brachytherapy, can be more precise with less side effects compared to other techniques and safer.” ACR accreditation ensures that a clinic has — and knows how to properly use- technologically advanced cancer treatment methods.

If you are interested to learn more information about the Idaho Cancer Center or ACR accreditation please call (208) 227-2727. If you need to schedule an appointment or consultation with either of our expert radiation oncologists, Dr. Douglas Holt or Dr. Daniel Miller, please call (208) 227-2700.