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Leveraging Technology for Coordinated, Consistent Patient Education

March 11, 2019
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Cheryl Fiscelli, MSN, RN, CAPA, and her team were facing a steep climb. They were tasked with standardizing patient education resources across the four regional locations in Colorado that make up the UCHealth Cancer Program (UCP). Each of the local UCP sites had their own distinct patient education resources and services. Much of the material they used had not been evaluated for years, and some patients complained of being inundated with information. When patients received instruction about their treatment, their education was often undocumented, leading to redundant efforts.

Fiscelli, the Clinical Nurse Manager of Radiation Oncology and the Littleton Cancer Center—one of the UCP’s regional centers—got to work creating and implementing uniform patient education materials for all of the UCP’s oncology patients. Fiscelli and her team will detail their efforts on March 22 at the Leveraging Technology to Improve Patient Education and Track Engagement Deep Dive Workshop, part of ACCC’s 45th Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit in Washington, D.C. Here Fiscelli and her team share some of the highlights of the workshop they will facilitate at the meeting.

Fiscelli says the first step in creating UCP’s patient education strategy was to conduct a gap analysis to determine the specific needs of UCP’s four cancer centers. “We found major gaps among them all,” says Fiscelli. “So we set out to develop a uniform dot phrase book [in Epic EHRs, smart phrases are called ‘dot phrases’], create easily accessed resources, ensure patients receive education, document that education, and distribute materials where people can see them.”

Fiscelli and her team organized a multidisciplinary committee to determine how best to approach the creation of a coordinated oncology patient education program integrated with the health system’s Epic EHR. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and patients sat on the committee and shared their input. A separate dot phrase committee of oncology clinicians addressed how to best standardize patient education.

Within approximately two years, these efforts produced a book on cancer care and patient education that is being used system-wide. Instructional materials such as online interactive education modules allow patients to choose when and where to learn about their treatment. And staff can document in the EHR when patients have been taught or have received materials about their treatment.

“When you compare our current processes with what we did before, you realize the difference between giving patients simplified information in an easy-to-use format versus doing an information dump,” says Fiscelli. “The fact that you can document who received information and who did not can tell you what to review with patients who are asking questions. You can provide targeted education as needed rather than repeat the whole thing.”

Fiscelli and her team’s hands-on experience has given them a wealth of best practices to share about enhancing and standardizing patient education. During the Deep Dive workshop, they will address how you can apply their lessons learned to your own patient education efforts. “It was satisfying for our whole system when we completed this project,” says Fiscelli. “We saw everyone come together to work toward a common goal, and patients are benefitting as a result.”

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