Technology At Sask. Cancer Agency Gives Patients Newfound Peace Of Mind

A Saskatoon mother believes technological change at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency is bringing many families the peace of mind she didn’t have when her son was diagnosed with cancer.

Michelle Bell’s son, Andrew, was 4 1/2 years old when he was diagnosed. For almost two years, the little boy underwent radiation and chemotherapy and later a stem cell transplant.

Because of his weakened state, Bell took Andrew to the emergency department numerous times — trips she dreaded. It was difficult for ER doctors to treat the child because ER records didn’t include information on all his medications or most recent chemotherapy.

Those days are gone now that the agency uses voice recognition software, implemented last September.

The technology is similar to a smartphone. With a push of a button, physicians speak into a microphone and the software converts speech to text on the screen.

“The difference from the smartphone is that the artificial intelligence keys in on medical words, so it’s a little more sophisticated,” said Dr. Mark Bosch, director of hematology in Saskatoon with the SCA.

All agency doctors use the technology to dictate reports.

In the past, dictated reports would be transferred to transcriptionists and then sent back to the doctor for editing and approval.

Urgent reports were done immediately, but others could take up to 30 days before the family doctor received it.

“That was probably the average among cancer agencies across the country,” Bosch said.

Now, with voice recognition technology, 97.1 per cent of doctors’ notes are available to family doctors and other health-care providers within 24 hours.

Bosch described the change as revolutionary.

Before voice recognition, the only way ER doctors could get information about a patient’s chemotherapy in the middle of the night was to call the oncologist. Not everyone had access.

From left, Michelle Bell, Dr. Mark Bosch and Dawne Tokaryk at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency on Parliament Avenue. BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post

There were also gaps in the records of the family doctor and oncologist, Bell noted.

“Now parents have peace of mind that all of the information is there — there are no missing gaps,” she said. “Patient safety has really, really improved and competency.”

Andrew is now 13 and a cancer survivor. His mom co-chairs the patient and family advisory council and proudly speaks about the agency’s recent technological strides.

“This is a Saskatchewan innovation in Canada,” Bosch said. “As far as we know we’re the only cancer centre in Canada that has implemented this technology with this kind of success.”

The technology is used within the agency on a provincial scale.

Care teams at all locations now have timely access to the latest patient notes because they’re available on the EHR Viewer, meaning they can be viewed by teams outside the agency, including ER doctors.

The agency also implemented a system so nurses call patients to get medical information to add to their electronic record. Doctors no longer ask about family history, but can focus on patients’ immediate needs.

The agency uploaded its physicians’ notes to the provincial health record so doctors, anywhere in Saskatchewan, can access patient information.

“On average, most of our notes are on the provincial health record in 4.6 hours,” Bosch said. “In fact, the moment a physician reviews it and approves it, within seconds it’s on the electronic record. This is a huge change for us — it’s very exciting.”

An unintended side effect was more physicians were educated about the provincial health record, Bosch said.

“That just doesn’t benefit cancer care, it benefits all care for people from Saskatchewan,” he said.

Dawne Tokaryk, co-chair of the patient and family advisory council with the SCA, has seen both sides of cancer treatment.

Diagnosed with cervical cancer when pregnant with her son, Tokaryk understands the importance of timely information during a time of fear.

“I had to wait for information and my biggest concern at the time was, ‘What is this doing to my baby?’ I had surgery, was told that I’d probably never have another child and two years later my daughter was born,” Tokaryk said. “That was 40 years ago, so cancer patients have always been near and dear to me during my cancer career.”

For 12 years, the registered nurse worked in the Community Oncology Program of Saskatchewan (COPS) and did outpatient chemotherapy in North Battleford and surrounding area.

When she practised, her patients would see an oncologist in Saskatoon, get their first round of chemotherapy in that city and subsequent rounds in North Battleford.

Tokaryk wouldn’t get the oncologist’s report for two or three weeks after the patient’s appointment. That posed problems answering patients’ questions.

“I’d try to answer them as best I could, but then I would get the notes and find out that what they heard from the oncologist was not what he had said to them,” she said. “I wouldn’t know that until the notes came.”

The readily available oncology records are particularly helpful in areas outside Regina and Saskatoon.

“Especially in the outreach areas where you can’t go to the oncologist,” she said.

pcowan@postmedia.com

Source : https://leaderpost.com/news/local-news/technology-at-sask-cancer-agency-gives-patients-newfound-peace-of-mind

Technology at Sask. Cancer Agency gives patients newfound peace of mind
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