Even though cancer cases continue to be on the rise worldwide, death rates are dropping as a result of shifts in lifestyle, early detection and new treatment options.

With more people living with cancer, care delivery often involves managing complex treatment regimens with additional co-morbidities, creating a greater need to bridge gaps across care settings and provide simplified care while maintaining patient safety.

An integrated care delivery system can bridge those gaps across the continuum and enable patients and providers to take proactive steps that will continue the trend toward positive outcomes. At the same time, an integrated EHR can help streamline clinical and billing processes, resulting in more satisfied patients as well as a healthier bottom line for organizations.

Nurses collaborate on care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. (Photo credit: Quynh Tran, Texas Health Resources)
Nurses collaborate on care at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. (Photo credit: Quynh Tran, Texas Health Resources)

Here are four ways to use an integrated EHR to improve cancer management:

1. Coordinate care and bridge gaps between primary and secondary care settings.

Oncology care often occurs within outpatient settings, but as a patient’s condition changes, care can evolve through long-term care, home care, hospice, ambulatory and acute care settings. Integrated care delivery ensures continuity as patients transition between care environments, and it enables the entire care team to access the patient’s health record electronically.

Having direct access to the patient’s electronic health record ensures all the patient’s medications, most recent test results and allergies are available to the entire care team regardless of where the staff is on any given day. Patients and their family members are not burdened with having to remember everything, and no one has to carry around paperwork that should be electronically available to everyone involved with managing the patient’s care.

2. Provide simplified care to efficiently manage complex treatment regimens.

Beyond providing a personalized workflow for staff based on roles, integrated care offers additional tools for improving efficiency. Unlimited flowsheets tailored to the patient’s diagnosis or a given specialty, coupled with dynamic and flexible data summaries used to consolidate key patient data in a meaningful way, can help to simplify complex care.

Using centralized scheduling to coordinate patient appointments and procedures simplifies life for the patient, leading to greater patient satisfaction. Additionally, the growing popularity of oral chemotherapy medications puts more responsibility on the patient to ensure their treatment regimen is followed as outlined, increasing the need to use online portals to track symptoms and connect with care providers.

3. Monitor fluctuating conditions along with treatments to enhance patient safety.

Integrated clinical flowsheets support clinical decision making by enabling oncology staff to monitor the patient’s condition, on-going treatment and progress. Oncologists can make informed decisions to customize treatment plans as needed.

Closed-loop chemotherapy medication management ensures timely communication of medication information across the clinical care teams and helps to prevent errors, potential interactions and adverse reactions. It also ensures the right patient is getting the right treatment at the right time.

4. Ensure timely and maximum reimbursements to increase revenue realization.

Gathering the right patient information upon initial contact and continuing throughout the patient care process through to final billing can help organizations maximize reimbursement.

Linking nursing documentation to charges enables this information to flow automatically to patient accounting departments to help prevent lost or inaccurate charge transcription. It also enables charging to occur immediately after care delivery, thereby shortening the payment time cycle and improving your financial sustainability.

Of course, no single solution will solve all treatment and workflow challenges, but use of an integrated EHR gives organizations the tools to make like easier for patients facing the daily challenge of a fight to beat cancer.

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Robin Pizzi

Robin Pizzi

Robin Pizzi is the manager for strategic direction of oncology and anesthesia initiatives at MEDITECH.