Informatics has become a transformative force in cancer care, addressing many of the challenges posed by the complex care required to treat this devastating disease. Clinicians and their teams grapple with issues ranging from delayed treatment times to a lack of accessibility to patient documents and other clinical information. Coordinating multidisciplinary care among diverse specialists adds another layer of complexity to the equation.

The advanced software solutions provided with oncology informatics are actively reshaping the landscape of cancer care by streamlining processes, improving workflow, and increasing connectivity.

In 1997, the National Cancer Policy Board advocated for comprehensive, coordinated, focused care with informed decision-making, respectful communication, and accountability. [1] Today, the field of oncology informatics is growing more capable of supporting these benchmarks and helping to set a new standard for practice management, ultimately improving outcomes for people battling cancer worldwide. Here are five ways specialized informatics solutions are revolutionizing care.

Reducing Time to Treatment
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) estimates the number of new cancer cases diagnosed in the United States could reach up to 2.3 million by 2030. [2] As cases increase, it is critical to optimize practice management and reduce time to treatment to as minimal as possible. A 2022 study highlighted the wide range of factors that influence cancer care, including issues of clinical efficiency, such as interactions with healthcare systems and patient data collection methods.[3]

These clinical and administrative inefficiencies can obstruct timely intervention due to the multifaceted treatment approaches often required for oncology patients.

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Recent research has indicated that integrating the advanced technology and digital tools provided by oncology informatics software can help streamline the patient journey.[4] These systems often include cutting-edge features like voice automation, automated alerts, and worklist auto-updating, allowing healthcare professionals to maintain real-time awareness of patient status and have a comprehensive overview of the entire care process accessible across various devices. Furthermore, swift document review and approval becomes effortless with just a few clicks, bolstering overall efficiency.

Improving Administrative Flow
Oncology informatics platforms are pivotal in optimizing practice management, improving efficiency, and offering a patient-centered approach. These platforms provide advanced tools for automating the intake process, thus streamlining clinic flow and throughput. One key feature is customized digital forms that display only essential information for each individual, reducing redundant data entry and easing the administrative workload. The time saved in these administrative tasks can then be directed toward patient care.

Another significant aspect of these platforms is their automated charting functionality, which helps mitigate redundancy and errors in medical records. Health information technology studies on patient safety indicate that data management systems can reduce error rates by expediting charting and allowing more time for direct patient care.[5] Furthermore, adopting single-location data entry minimizes the potential for errors that may occur when entering similar information across multiple chart documents. The outcome is a more streamlined administrative process and enhanced patient safety and overall care quality.

Supporting Clinical Workflow
Focused physician interaction is critical to efficient care delivery. Modern informatics systems allow providers to use custom keywords and phrases, enabling them to type fewer words during a patient encounter yet generate a comprehensive document at the end of each appointment. Such features are instrumental in affording providers additional time to dedicate to patient counseling and questions—a critical component of the care process. Additionally, integrating customizable forms within these systems further enhances efficiency and mitigates clinician overwhelm. By customizing forms, patients can focus on questions that pertain to them instead of wasting time on standard forms packed with general questions.

In the specialized field of radiation oncology, treatment planning and record-and-verify systems play an important role in enhancing clinical workflow. These systems minimize the time spent on manual such as exporting, importing, and checking targets and constraints during linear accelerator (LINAC) radiation therapy. These systems result in faster preparation for adaptive planning, which offers significant advantages for precise, quick, and personalized radiation therapy.

Increasing Accessibility
Accessibility is critical to advancing cancer care. Moving from the traditional on-site system to a cloud-based informatics solution centralizes important data and empowers providers with valuable insights on demand. Information is accessible to clinicians and patients when and where they need it, and it’s not tied to a particular location. Now, clinicians can collaborate across wide geographies, be that across town, across multiple hospitals, or across continents. Perhaps the most significant advantage is the gained accessibility in lesser-served areas that wouldn’t usually have access to the best doctors or practices.

With clinicians and patients feeding these systems with continuously updated data, no matter your location, better treatment decisions can be made in real-time, elevating the standard of care. Additionally, the time to care is shortened with collaboration and access to the data.

There is also an element of data security because data is not around in an unprotected way like with traditional systems. The information is accessed in a secure online environment rather than passing around hard copy files or a giant 20-gigabyte electronic file that could get lost or put in the wrong hands.

Turning Data Into Insights
Within every cancer center, a treasure trove of data resides in various source applications containing the potential to address critical questions. An oncology informatics platform with analytic capabilities can unlock the power of this data and transform it into valuable insights, insights into informed decisions, and decisions into tangible results. This specialized business and clinical intelligence application, tailored to the field of oncology, empowers cancer centers to seamlessly gather, consolidate, and analyze their clinical, operational, and financial data. Utilizing web-based dashboards, reports, and flexible ad-hoc queries, clinicians and administrators gain the capacity to monitor efficiency, gain a profound understanding of patient care, ensure regulatory compliance, and ultimately drive improved patient outcomes.

A sophisticated oncology informatics platform can harness the full spectrum of knowledge within cancer centers, equipping physicians and practice managers with the essential tools to comprehensively track, measure, and manage care delivery. By delving deeper into the data and visualizing the findings, novel insights can be discovered, enabling confident, evidence-based decisions that will shape the future of oncology practices.

References
[1] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 1999. Ensuring Quality Cancer Care. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Online. last accesses on January 10, 2024
[2] Smith BD, Smith GL, Hurria A, Hortobagyi GN, Buchholz TA. Future of Cancer Incidence in the United States: Burdens Upon an Aging, Changing Nation. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2009;27(17):2758-2765. DOI: 10.1200/jco.2008.20.8983
[3] Alessy SA, Alhajji M, Rawlinson J, Baker M, Davies EA. Factors influencing cancer patients’ experiences of care in the USA, United Kingdom, and Canada: A systematic review. eClinicalMedicine. 2022;47:101405. DOI: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2022.101405
[4] Basch E, Deal AM, Dueck AC, et al. Overall Survival Results of a Trial Assessing Patient-Reported Outcomes for Symptom Monitoring During Routine Cancer Treatment. JAMA. 2017;318(2):197-198. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2017.7156
[5] Alotaibi Y, Federico F. The impact of health information technology on patient safety. Saudi Medical Journal. 2019;38(12):1173-1180. DOI: 10.15537/smj.2017.12.20631

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