Best Practices: Engaging Primary Care Physicians and Specialists in Tumor Board Conferences

Tina Dyer 
August 27, 2020

ASCENSION LOURDES EXPANDS TUMOR BOARD PARTICIPATION TO GET MORE COMPLETE VIEW OF PATIENTS WHILE ALSO DRIVING MORE REFERRALS

Primary care physicians (PCPs) have a unique view into patients, typically having deep knowledge of the patient’s health history for many years prior to the onset of cancer. The cancer team at Ascension Lourdes Regional Cancer Center wanted to access that knowledge along with insights from other specialists when discussing the patient’s case in their tumor board conferences, believing that a more holistic view of the patient would ultimately lead to better outcomes for their patients they serve.

ENGAGING THE COMPLETE TEAM

As a part of one of the largest health systems in the country, Lourdes prides itself on delivering the highest quality cancer care, and as a result is constantly seeking ways to make their “best practices better.”

One of the hallmarks of the Lourdes center is its five different, highly collaborative tumor board conferences that bring together multi- disciplinary specialists and PCPs on a regular basis to discuss complex cancer cases.

According to Stacie Hansen, Service Line Leader of Oncology at Lourdes, “Being able to easily invite and engage with virtually any physician or specialist in our tumor board conferences with the OncoLens platform has been a game changer for us. Before OncoLens, we struggled to get engagement from PCPs mainly because of their busy schedules. Having to get out of the office and drive to the hospital to sit in an hour- long meeting was not practical and, in some cases, not possible. By giving them the ability to simply log in and share their insights from their office or home has dramatically improved their ability to participate in their patient’s care journey. It has also improved our ability to provide the right treatment plans for our patients.”

Cindy Smith, Tumor Registry Support, echoed Hansen’s comments, “We really value the insights the PCPs bring to our tumor board conferences. They have a perspective that we do not because we are seeing the patient in this moment in time. Typically, the PCPs have long-term relationships with the patient and can give us a more complete picture of the patient.”

Prior to OncoLens, Lourdes used a call-in number for PCPs and other specialists, which was cumbersome. It was difficult to navigate and made it challenging for everyone to hear the conversations and see the patient case information that was being presented. Understandably, the team had low participation.

Now, many providers can securely attend the Lourdes tumor board meetings, whether in person or remotely. OncoLens enables remote multi-disciplinary decision making and treatment planning through standardized asynchronous or real-time tumor board discussions.

According to Wendy Brennan, Patient Nurse Navigator for Lourdes Breast Center, “With OncoLens, we can invite additional participants who normally do not attend, such as lymphoedema specialists, speech pathologists, pain and wellness, as well as palliative medicine.” Brennan also commented on how the platform allows them to easily engage with other care providers who may be necessary to carry out the treatment plans. For example, Lourdes does not do pulmonary surgery, so the team was able to engage a surgeon at a neighboring hospital so the surgeon could be part of the patient discussion and then seamlessly treat the patient.

The process of inviting PCPs and specialists into tumor board conferences has been streamlined with the use of OncoLens as well. The invitation letters contain a valuable OncoLens Quick Start Guide with clear instructions on how to attend tumor board meetings from anywhere. The detailed letter specifies the meeting date, time, patient name, primary site to be discussed, OncoLens login information and a statement summarizing the importance of Ascension Lourdes’ CoC Accreditation.

Emily Post, RN, Nurse Navigator, Ascension Lourdes said, “At our most recent tumor board, our cardiothoracic surgeon attended. The pulmonologist, who hasn’t routinely participated in the past due to his significant commute, is now on board too. When he heard about OncoLens and that he could attend from home, his eyes lit right up! Overall, we have seen a lot more physician buy-in.”

SURPRISE BENEFITS OF GOING VIRTUAL

One of the unexpected benefits of having a way to easily engage PCPs and other specialists in their cancer care treatment planning was the increase in referrals the organization experienced. “By being able to invite and easily connect virtually with the patient’s primary care physician, we are building stronger relationships with the PCPs in our community. We’ve found that many PCPs feel more connected to us than ever before, so our patients are not the only ones who benefit from their engagement in the tumor board conferences,” added Hansen.

Moving from in-person board conferences to virtual tumor board sessions has generated new efficiencies that are delivering some surprise benefits to the organization. Hansen and her team used to spend multiple days per week preparing for weekly Friday morning tumor board meetings.

“Overall, we have seen a lot more physician buy-in."
– Emily Post, RN Nurse Navigator, Ascension Lourdes

Several documents and sources of patient information had to be tracked down and available for reference during the conference. Copies were made for each care team member and conference space was reserved since it was required for all core physicians to be in the same room for every meeting. After much of the work week was used to prepare, the management of the tumor board was equally manual – from tracking accreditations and distributing physician recommendations to documenting discussions of clinical trials and supportive care.

The time-savings impact of using OncoLens was immediate – the team experienced a 90% reduction in preparation time for their next tumor board. All cancer patient information, including pathology reports and radiology images, was now accessible in one location. “OncoLens helps put the pieces of the puzzle together for me,” said Post. “I know what the next steps are for the patient because I’ve heard the care team collaborate and can view the patient data in one place.”

A BRIGHT FUTURE

The Ascension Lourdes Regional Cancer Center plays a vital role in serving communities surrounding Binghamton, NY, and its multidisciplinary approach to treatment planning plays an important role in its long track record of success.

Partnering with OncoLens is enabling the Lourdes team to climb even higher. Not only has the software platform allowed the team to engage specialists and PCPs in the care planning, but the OncoLens service team has been second to none.

According to Smith, “I can’t say enough about the high level of customer support we are receiving from the OncoLens team. They are very responsive to any question we have and have really held our hand throughout the process of transitioning to their platform and engaging other care providers.”

According to Hansen, “We are excited to see how this digital technology positively impacts the number of cases that are presented and the number of physicians who participate. Our assumption is that both numbers will continue to grow. OncoLens is a great way to bring a team of busy specialists together to collaborate on the best treatment plan we can offer our patients.”

“The patient is the real winner with OncoLens. Being able to have a full care team of specialists and care providers discussing a patient and all being on the same page results in better outcomes and a better care experience for the patient.”
– Cindy Smith, Tumor Registry Support, Ascension Lourdes