- A group of researchers from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (D-H) will join medical professionals across the country to test the feasibility of integrating patient-reported outcomes (PROs) into cancer care plans.
As a part of a research project funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative, D-H will split $9 million in grant funding with Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, Baptist Memorial Medical Center, Lifespan Cancer Institute, West Virginia University Cancer Institute, and Maine Medical Center.
Researchers from these healthcare organizations will be a part of the SIMPRO Research Center. As a group, they will work with Epic Systems to test how the healthcare industry can use PROs in the EHR to improve cancer care.
Specifically, SIMPRO will develop an app that collects ePROs and integrates them into the EHR. The app, titled eSyM, will be patient-facing and track patient symptoms after a cancer surgery or chemotherapy. Through EHR integration, the app will update care teams and allow for a stronger connection through remote patient monitoring.
This should help connect patients living in remote locations with their providers, according to Sandra Wong, MD, a co-principal investigator on the project and a surgical oncologist at the D-H Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC).
“Post-operative symptom management is an underutilized strategy for improving surgical care,” said Wong, who is also D-H chair of surgery and the William N. and Bessie Allyn Professor of Surgery at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. “This work will help us understand how surgeons should implement ePROs especially for patients who travel great distances for their operations.”
Wong will be joined by NCCC medical oncologist Gabriel Brooks, MD and D-H Chief Health Information Officer (CHIO) Peter Solberg, MD, in the research endeavor.
SIMPRO will also investigate whether this type of remote monitoring from cancer provider teams reduces hospitalizations and ED admissions for cancer patients. Ideally, care providers can adjust patient care needs remotely when they are notified of irregularities via the app, cutting down on urgent care needs.
“Engaging patients to report their symptoms between clinic visits gives us a chance to intervene sooner when new symptoms or treatment-related side effects arise,” Brooks explained. “And we hope that early intervention will translate to better outcomes for patients.”
These capabilities are at the heart of NCCC’s mission to improve rural health and patient care access, according to NCCC director Steven Leach, MD.
“Integration of patient-reported outcomes is at the heart of our patient-centered care philosophy,” Leach pointed out. “As the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center located outside of a major urban center, NCCC can play a leading role in delivering care to rural populations. SIMPRO will help us to improve outcomes and experience for those rural patients.”
At study’s end, participants plan to integrate eSyM into their care strategies for all of their patients across their cancer centers. These efforts will require agile patient engagement technology use and an effective EHR, according to Solberg.
“The opportunity to partner directly with Epic and their resources, to build these tools into our electronic health record, means in the short-term the research is more likely to bear fruit,” said Solberg. “And in the long-term that successful strategies can be disseminated around the country.”