JOURNAL ARTICLE

Developing a real-time electronic symptom monitoring system for patients after discharge following cancer-related surgery

Kerry N L Avery, Hollie S Richards, Amanda Portal, Trudy Reed, Ruth Harding, Robert Carter, Leon Bamforth, Kate Absolom, Elaine O'Connell Francischetto, Galina Velikova, Jane M Blazeby
BMC Cancer 2019 May 17, 19 (1): 463
31101017

BACKGROUND: Patients undergoing major cancer surgery frequently require post-acute care for complications and adverse effects. Enhanced recovery after surgery programmes mean that patients are increasingly discharged home earlier. Symptom/complication detection post-discharge is sub-optimal. Systematic patient monitoring post-discharge following surgery may be optimally achieved through routine electronic patient-reported outcome (ePRO) data capture. ePRO systems that employ clinical algorithms to guide management of patients and automatically alert clinicians of clinically-concerning symptoms can improve patient outcomes and decrease hospital admissions. ePRO systems that provide individually-tailored self-management advice and integrate live ePRO data into electronic health records (EHR) may also advance personalised health and patient-centred care. This study aims to develop a hospital EHR-integrated ePRO system to improve detection and management of complications post-discharge following cancer-related surgery.

METHODS: The ePRO system was developed in two phases: (1) Development of a web-based ePRO symptom-report from validated European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) questionnaires, clinical opinion and patient interviews, followed by hospital EHR integration; (2) Development of clinical algorithms triggering symptom severity-dependent patient advice and clinician alerts from: (i) prospectively-collected patient-completed ePRO symptom-report data; (ii) stakeholder meetings; (iii) patient interviews. Patient advice was developed from: (i) clinician-patient telephone consultations and patient interviews; (ii) review of hospital patient information leaflets (PIL) and patient support websites.

RESULTS: Phase 1, including interviews with 18 patients, identified 35 symptom-report items. In phase 2, 130/300 (43%) screened patients were eligible. 61 (47%) consented to participate and 59 (97%) provided 444 complete self-reports. Stakeholder meetings (9 clinicians, 1 patient/public representative) and patient interviews (n = 66) refined advice/alert accuracy. 15 telephone consultations, 7 patient interviews and review of 28 PILs and 3 patient support websites identified 4 themes to inform self-management advice. Comparisons between ePRO symptom-report data, telephone consultations and clinical events/outcomes (n = 27 patients) further refined clinical algorithms.

CONCLUSIONS: A hospital EHR-integrated ePRO system that alerts clinicians and provides patient self-management advice has been developed to improve the detection and management of problems and complications after discharge following surgery. An ongoing pilot study will inform a multicentre randomised trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the ePRO system compared to usual care.

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