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Med Decis Making. 2014 Nov;34(8):1006-15. doi: 10.1177/0272989X14541679. Epub 2014 Jul 9.

Decision to adopt medical technology: case study of breast cancer radiotherapy techniques.

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New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY (HTG, KP)
Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY (MKH)
University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Barbados (MMM).



To understand decision making concerning adoption and nonadoption of accelerated partial breast radiotherapy (RT) prior to long-term randomized trial evidence.


A total of 36 radiation oncologists and surgeons were recruited through purposive and snowball sampling strategies from September 2010 through January 2013. Semistructured phone interviews were conducted and audio-recorded and lasted 20-45 minutes. Qualitative analysis was conducted using a framework approach, iteratively exploring key concepts and emerging issues raised by subjects. Interviews were transcribed and imported into Atlas.ti v6. Transcripts were independently coded by 3 researchers shortly after each interview, followed by consensus development on each coded transcript. Barriers and facilitators of adoption, practice patterns, and informational/educational sources concerning accelerated partial breast RT were all assessed to determine major themes.


Nearly half of physicians were surgeons (47%), and half were radiation oncologists (53%), with 61% overall in urban settings. Twenty-nine of the 36 physicians interviewed used brachytherapy-based partial breast RT. Five major factors were involved in physicians' decisions to adopt accelerated partial breast RT: facilitators encouraging adoption (e.g., enthusiastic colleagues and patient convenience), financial and prestige incentives, pressures to adopt (e.g., potential declines in referrals), judgment concerning acceptable level of scientific evidence, and barriers (e.g., not having appropriate machinery or referral mechanism in place). If technology was adopted, clinical guideline adherence varied.


Technology adoption is based on financial and social pressures, along with often-limited scientific evidence and what seems "best" for patients. For technology adoption and diffusion to be rational and evidence-based, we must encourage appropriate financial payment models to curb use outside of research studies and promote development of additional treatment registries until sufficient evidence is gathered.


breast cancer; qualitative research; technology adoption and diffusion

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