OCSRI: Q&A with a Leader in Cancer Care

Oklahoma Cancer Specialists and Research Institute (OCSRI) is the largest physician-owned oncology network in Oklahoma, offering services at five cancer centers throughout the state with board-certified physicians specializing in Medical Oncology, Radiation Oncology, Gynecological Oncology, Onco-supportive Dermatology and Cutaneous. The practice includes more than 20 blood and cancer specialty physicians and 200 nurses and associates.

OCSRI is an innovative practice that is working to transition to value-based care and is participating in CMS’s Oncology Care Model. In an effort to improve the high quality care they provide to patients and reduce costs, OCSRI implemented Navigating Cancer’s Patient Relationship Management software platform during the summer of 2017.

Since new technology adoption can be difficult – especially in healthcare – we really work to talk and listen to our partners to learn what’s working and how our PRM platform is working for them. We recently sat down with a few of OCSRI’s team members for a great conversation.

Navigating Cancer: Why did you originally become interested in Navigating Cancer’s software?

Oklahoma Cancer Specialists and Research Institute: As part of our participation in the Oncology Care Model we have periodic calls with other OCM practices. In those calls we started hearing about Navigating Cancer’s triage system with symptom management pathways. We knew that was an area we really wanted to improve, including tracking call types, expediting incoming phone calls, providing quicker intervention for symptom management and enabling patients to speak to a nurse in real time. Our nurses in the clinic could find 40 voicemail messages waiting for them which could take an hour just to listen to. We needed a way to streamline calls and respond to them in the order of importance.

We also wanted to standardize care, especially for symptom management. We were using the ONS telephone triage book, but that was a totally manual effort plus we weren’t able to easily capture data and ensure we were managing issues in a consistent, routine way.

NC: How did your staff react to the new technology and workflow?

OCSRI: We initially rolled Navigating Cancer out to our triage nurses. There were mixed feelings at first – change can be scary. It started slow, but our triage nurses quickly saw they could help patients sooner and with real time information right in front of them they were able to deliver better care. And, as time has gone by, we’ve seen our operators get much better when they create that initial triage ticket for the care team.

In particular the after hours nurses have found that Navigating Cancer helps tremendously. They can easily document the patient issue so the nurses in the morning know when they get in if there was an issue over night. The last thing we wanted was for our care team to feel like this was another burden, so it’s been great for them to see benefits right away.

NC: What do you triage nurses say now?

OCSRI: They love it. They would never want to go back to how we were doing things before. The follow ups are great – especially for after hours communication, which has improved vastly. If a patient went to the hospital during the night, the care team will know right away when they get in the next morning.

NC: Do you think patient care has improved?

OCSRI: Patients have told us they like knowing that someone is hearing their issue right when they call in, even if it is the operator. We communicate to our patients that if their call is urgent it is moved to the top of the list, so it reduces repeat calls and eases patient concerns. We are seeing calls get managed more quickly and appropriately – if it’s not a clinical issue and can be managed right away by someone other than a nurse, it is.

NC: So what do see as the next steps?

OCSRI: We are still working on making sure calls are getting routed to someone other than nurse when it’s not needed and reducing call back time to under 60 minutes when a nurse is needed. We are looking forward to the more robust reporting that Navigating Cancer is developing so we can determine ways we can improve like areas re-education of staff or patients might be needed, for instance.

We are excited to expand remote monitoring via the Health Tracker program so patients have an even easier way to let us know what’s happening. As we focus on tools for value-based care and ways to impact utilization of emergency department services and hospitalization, we think Health Tracker can make a big impact. We are also hoping to really zero in on high risk patients so we apply a more sensitive lens for patients to everything we do for them, including chemo teach, toxicity levels, navigation services, pathways and more.

NC: Thanks OCSRI! We’re excited to see what you accomplish next.

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