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Enhanced automation provides lifeline to managing data deluge in oncology

By: Dr. Anand Kuruvilla

Treating cancer has always been challenging from a therapeutic standpoint, but advances and innovation in oncology have made treatment more tolerable and helped to improve care and outcomes. Yet the delivery of care is becoming more complex, and multiple factors make healthcare data overload a growing challenge in oncology.

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One factor is the increased amount of data generated over the course of treatment. In many cases, accurate staging and subtyping require additional testing. A growing number of cancer therapies are indicated for specific genetic mutations, necessitating companion diagnostic tests. Treatment plans are also increasing in complexity, comprising radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and surgery, and involving multiple care providers across different departments and, in some cases, institutions. Scheduling and coordinating multiple tests, treatment sessions, physician visits and follow up appointments also adds to the overload of data.

Collecting, annotating and archiving patient data and chart notes places significant burdens on providers’ time, reducing the amount of time available for delivering patient care and limiting their ability to see patients in a timely manner. This is a particular challenge within our practice, as our policy is that any patient referred to our center for consult is seen within a maximum of two days from the time of referral. This type of timely care is difficult to provide when physicians and office staff are drowning in administrative activities, and overcoming the data overload challenge is essential to giving patients the time and focus they need.

Technology: It isn’t just for patient care
Providers and care centers typically embrace new treatment and diagnostic technologies as tools for improving outcomes, yet may be more reticent to invest in technologies that improve the administrative aspects of patient care and institutional operations. However, these investments are critical for improving the quality and cost of care and providing patients with an optimal care experience.

For example, an electronic medical record (EMR) can allow for data sharing within a health system by putting information online rather than in a physical chart. Care management software solutions allow patient data to be collected and accessed in a single system from diagnosis, to treatment, to follow-up. Importantly, voice recognition and automation technologies can significantly streamline data collection and management. The ability to generate a chart note by voice during a patient visit simplifies and modernizes the clinical documentation process and, in some systems, can automate data collection from previous notes, which reduces the amount of data that needs to be collected during each visit. These technologies reduce cognitive load on physicians, and increase the time available for face-to-face patient care.
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