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Clinical Decision Support Central to Advancing Cancer Care

Clinical decision support tools are one of a few forms of health IT capable of accelerating improvements in cancer care delivery and patient outcomes.

Clinical decision support tools to benefit cancer care

Source: Thinkstock

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- Innovations in cancer research and treatment guidelines make clinical decision support (CDS) tools a critical resource for providers.

Writing in Oncology Times, Lalan Wilfong, MD, of Texas Oncology identified CDS tools as one of five health IT services capable of helping improve cancer care when put into the hands of oncologists.

 “For example, treatment options for lung cancer expand seemingly daily. If the provider does not treat lung cancer frequently, he or she may forget to check for genetic alterations that guide therapeutic decisions,” he wrote.

“CDS tools prompt the provider to test for specific genetic alterations and then list the appropriate therapy, which can improve survival compared to standard treatment,” Wilfong continued. “They can also alert the provider to certain issues that may have gone unnoticed over time, such as slow weight loss or declining performance status.”

The use of EHR technology, patient portals, health data analytics, and drug management technologies also enable oncologists to improve patient outcomes as a means of aggregating and sharing the latest health data and research among providers and between providers and patients.

Specifically of EHR systems, Wilfong drew attention to the value of mobile EHR capabilities in achieving care improvement goals.

“With a mobile EHR, providers working away from the office can see exactly what therapies patients are getting and where they are in their cycle, all of which play a critical role in after-hours care,” he explained. “Providers can also send notes to the care team instructing them how to follow-up with patients, enhancing care coordination and enabling the entire team to participate in quality care.”

With the increase in research and knowledge about the disease, the EHR system plays a central role in educating both providers and patients:

Meanwhile, patient portals provide an efficient means for patients to communicate with providers as well as contribute additional data to the electronic record via patient-reported outcomes and online surveys about their current health status. The patient portal is especially valuable to patients who struggle to communicate their health concerns verbally, added Wilfong.

Health data analytics keep providers informed as to their compliance with the latest clinical guidelines and make improvements where necessary. These health IT tools also make providers aware of clinical trials and the eligibility of cancer patients to qualify for participation. Additionally, health data analytics capabilities should evolve into a means of effectively alerting providers to outcomes from small clinical trials that provides treatment insight into rare forms of the disease.

Similar to CDS tools, drug management technologies ensure that patients receive the appropriate medication as well as adherence plans to navigate a cancer drug environment continue to increase in complexity.

“Because the number of drugs has dramatically increased, these tools have become invaluable by putting information about proper drug concentrations and administration protocols at the fingertips of pharmacists and infusion nurses, helping to prevent errors,” the oncologist observed.

None of these tools, however, will be able to improve cancer care without the industry’s work as a whole to address healthcare interoperability.

“Interoperable technologies that facilitate care coordination are improving, but more progress is needed to enable a seamless flow of information from one care setting to another,” argued Wilfong. “As health care becomes more dependent on technology, it is critical to solve these issues to ensure all of the patient's providers have the information they need to deliver excellent coordinated care.”



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