A cancer diagnosis can be a traumatic experience for patients and their loved ones, and patients battling the disease deserve care teams that make them feel like more than just a number. Oncology patients are frequently transferred from one provider to another to undergo treatments and testing. One day, they have an appointment with their oncologist; the next, they’re meeting with their primary care physician (PCP) or having blood drawn in a lab.
It’s an exhaustive process with numerous challenges,  and less-than-optimal care coordination leads to bottlenecks and delays, increasing patient risks. Although there are several contributing factors to these delays, such as staffing issues and operational challenges, a notable element is the limited information sharing between doctors about treatment status and progress. This is especially true when providers and hospitals operate on separate EHRs.
Oncology care involves many responsibilities — appointment reminders, essential updates from the care team to the patient, and communication between healthcare providers, facilities, and oncology specialists. Communication becomes especially essential in the event of a transfer. While many patients opt for care facilities near their homes, specialty care often necessitates transfers to other locations. Top of FormThese transfers can be fraught with challenges that impact the quality of care and patient experiences, including the drastic need for timely and urgent transfers to specialized facilities, patient and family anxiety, fragmented information with patient records scattered across various healthcare systems, and communication gaps between providers leading to misunderstandings and errors in treatment plans. In situations where every moment is critical, communicating seamlessly is paramount.
Whether relocating to a different floor or an entirely new facility, oncology patient transfers within healthcare systems encompass intricate procedures with involvement from multiple essential stakeholders. With transfers often stretching into hours, the chance of miscommunication — and the inevitable consequences — is substantial.
Despite the well-documented unreliability of unsynchronous communication tools  such as pagers and phones, research reveals that many healthcare systems persist in using them for coordination. Such antiquated methods, in addition to a lack of standardized workflows, contribute to a disjointed, delayed transfer process that negatively affects patient care. Oncology patient and data transfers require a wider network of healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, case managers, hospital physicians, specialists, PCPs, and nursing teams in oncology clinics and infusion centers. When these many departments are involved, clear and easy collaboration is non-negotiable.
Clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) platforms enhance the coordination of intricate care pathways linked to cancer treatments and blood disorders. Hospital systems have started integrating modern clinical communication platforms to enable a more seamless system for collaboration among healthcare teams, streamlining transfers and improving the flow of patient throughput.
Modern care coordination solutions are improving oncology workflows, ensuring patients receive the highest quality care throughout their cancer journey. CC&C solutions, whether standalone or integrated with EHRs, enable real-time sharing of patient information, test results, and treatment plans across departments and locations, so patient data is available at the point of care. Features like real-time messaging and video calls speed up clinical decisions, reducing delays and staff frustrations. This ensures every team member stays informed and aligned.
Leveraging a CC&C platform, healthcare facilities can also reduce the cognitive burden on oncology staff by directing alarms and alerts to the appropriate person through a single cloud-based platform. Alerts from EHRs, lab systems, physiological monitors, and more converge into one streamlined and scalable solution, optimizing operations and enhancing the overall patient experience while addressing and mitigating heightened stress levels.
For oncology clinics, an essential aspect of quality care coordination is putting the patient at the center of the process. Patients should be encouraged to participate in their care plans actively, and their preferences and concerns should be considered when planning transfers. Additionally, the right collaboration solution not only secures group communication among care teams, patients, and their families but also integrates automated reminders. These reminders keep patients up-to-date on upcoming appointments and treatments, thereby minimizing missed treatments, enhancing patient engagement and satisfaction, and affording clinicians additional valuable time.
Moving forward in the pursuit of enhancing oncology patient transfers, advanced care coordination methods, including interoperability standards, communication platforms, and patient-centered care, are transforming how care teams handle this sensitive process. By adopting these methods, healthcare providers can ensure that patients receive the highest quality cancer care delivery, with improved outcomes and increased satisfaction. As technology advances, the future of oncology care coordination holds tremendous promise for patients battling cancer.
 Emily Alpert Reyes. ‘We’re at a standstill’: Patients can face agonizing waits for hospital transfers. Los Angeles Times; May 28, 2023. [Article]
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