Amy Ellis Discusses Setting Up an ePRO Tool at a Community Cancer Center

January 22, 2021

Setting up a new tool to capture electronic patient-reported outcomes (ePROs) requires a lot of prep work to ensure patients are comfortable and ready to use the tool, said Amy Ellis, chief quality officer at Northwest Medical Specialties.

Setting up a new tool to capture electronic patient-reported outcomes (ePROs) requires a lot of prep work to ensure patients are comfortable and ready to use the tool, said Amy Ellis, chief quality officer at Northwest Medical Specialties.

Transcript

How widely are ePROs being used at Northwest Medical Specialties, and what sort of education do you need to give patients in order to set them up?

Our practice is currently using a very manual process for ePROs. We do NCCN [National Comprehensive Cancer Network] distress and PHQ [Patient Health Questionnaire]-2 and PHQ-9 manually every 6 months. And we really want to start moving towards true ePROs, where the patients are reporting in real time, and we can take action on all of the different things that they're reporting.

And we actually [went] live [November 4] with our new ePRO tool. So, we've been spending the last few weeks getting our staff trained, preparing on how to educate patients. So, we've sent blasts out through our portal, we posted it on our website, [and] really did a lot of marketing around the implementation of this new tool so that when patients get to the infusion room, and the infusion nurses say, “Hey, we have this new tool, and it's going to do this, this, and this,” that's not going to be the first time that patients hear it.

It is very important that patients are aware or they've heard of a tool. And we've learned this, when we've implemented other things in our practice, that patients typically have to hear something several times before they're really willing to adopt it and understand it and really comply with it. So, we've been spending the last few weeks really trying to get a good process in place for educating patients.

What sort of tool are you using? Is it web based or a smartphone app?

It’s actually an app on the patient's phone. So, our infusion nurses will enroll the patients in the app, they will set up the cadence of check-ins for the patient—whether that be daily, weekly, and it's going to depend on the treatment that the patient is on and sometimes the patient's preference. Then the patients download the app on their phone, and the app will check in with them at those certain time points. They can report any symptoms, it really does go through almost the whole NCCN Distress Thermometer. So, it asks about depression, distress, and symptom management. And then when the patient hits, you know, submit that to your clinic, it then populates on a dashboard that our triage teams will monitor.

Are you looking to replace the previous way you were collecting PROs or hoping the ePROs might help fill in gaps in information?

Eventually, we will go away from this very manual process for distress and depression screenings but probably for a few months, we're going to have to juggle both systems—the system of the manual process of administering these to the patients while we implement the new ePRO tool. But the goal is for the new tool to really take over all of those different surveying functions for patients. So, whether that be oral adherence, symptom management, depression screenings, and potentially even satisfaction surveys.