Istvan Pataki, MD
Due to a variety of factors, today’s oncologists face multiple challenges in collecting, managing, and sharing their patients’ health data. One challenge involves the sheer volume of information that is typically generated in routine oncology care. This includes an increasing number of diagnostic, prognostic, and monitoring tests that physicians administer to plan, monitor, and adapt treatment to optimize safety and efficacy. Additionally, the growing use of multimodal therapy creates an increasingly complex treatment environment that may involve care providers across multiple disciplines and departments, such as medical oncology, radiation oncology, and surgery. Moreover, many patients may receive supportive care, such as nutrition counseling and mental health services, which must also be incorporated into their medical records.
As a result of these factors, oncologists are spending an increasingly large percentage of their time managing patient data and generating documentation to complete a comprehensive treatment record. This leaves them less time to spend with patients and can also result in burnout. The growing demands of collecting and managing patient data increase the need for additional administrative staff to support patient data management, which can increase costs for care centers and providers.
Fortunately, a growing number of electronic and software solutions help mitigate the challenges of patient data overload. New EHR platforms can seamlessly integrate data from multiple sources, such as treatment planning software, treatment delivery devices, scheduling, and billing. Moreover, healthcare information technology innovators are capitalizing on advances in automation and artificial intelligence to reduce the amount of manual effort needed to capture, enter, and share patient data. Such advances include voice recognition technology that enables automated, real-time dictation and facilitates data sharing and follow-up actions.
Case Study: North Carolina Center
Cape Fear Valley Cancer Center is one of the largest cancer facilities in North Carolina. The institution is committed to improving the quality of life of all its patients, and the cancer care providers strive to achieve this goal through a patient-centered approach that emphasizes innovation, teamwork, and accountability. Until recently, its ability to realize this vision was hindered by a slow and expensive approach to EHR data entry, which entailed a cumbersome, multistep process that comprised dictation, transcription, and editing. Completing an entry took up to a week, making it difficult to achieve real-time tracking of patients who might have multiple appointments, tests, or procedures within that time frame. This slow and inefficient process was also very costly, requiring 3.5 fulltime transcriptionists and an outside agency to support 14 providers. Moreover, the effort to generate accurate and timely patient notes reduced the time physicians had available for patient care, creating time and cost inefficiencies for the cancer center’s staff and leading to physician burnout.
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