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Study Leads to Increased Patient Engagement

In early 2020, MaineHealth completed year one as a participant in the five-year NCI-funded, quality improvement grant study, called Moonshot. Epic was engaged to develop a Patient Reported Outcome (PRO) or Electronic Symptom Management solution (eSyM) and developed a process and workflow for tracking eligible patients beginning infusion therapy, sending questionnaires to patients and receiving results and notifications to clinicians and providers.

The MaineHealth Cancer Care Network joined five other health systems in the SIMPRO initiative as part of the NCI grant. Over the course of the five-year study, each health system follows an alternating project schedule of implementing eSyM in the medical oncology and surgical oncology specialties. When the pandemic started, MaineHeath went live with the study in five of its medical oncology locations. While there was modest growth in the number of patients enrolled and participating, there was an increase in overall active MyChart patients in medical oncology. The overall active MyChart average was 70%, up from 60% at the beginning of the grant study in 2019. The severe symptom rate, averaging over 20% of the PROs, was also considerably higher than the expected 2% from research prior to the beginning of the study.

The general consensus across the test sites during the pandemic was that the tool has proven to be an alternative method of remotely engaging in patient care.

Jessica Bian, MD, the principal investigator for the study, advised focusing on the rate of patient engagement or growth in patient participation overall. (Previous studies out of quaternary cancer institutes reported that oncology patients engaged in electronic symptom reporting (eSyM) were able to stay on chemotherapy longer, required fewer emergency room visits, and reported better quality of life.)

Many cancer centers across the country are moving towards launching eSyM platforms based on these positive outcomes. The objectives of the study include measuring not only clinical outcomes of emergency room visits and hospitalizations, but also assessing implementation outcomes in community-based and rural oncology practice settings.