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Medical Advances

Innovation in Follow-Up Cancer Care

There’s an App for That

Following up on cancer care? There’s an app for that.

With the emergence of new technology comes more opportunities to provide better care. The Northwestern Medicine Lung Cancer Program is using NM MyChart and the mobile MyNM app to offer patients a remote option for surveillance after lung cancer surgery and to collect patient-reported outcomes. This feedback is provided directly from the patient concerning his or her perception of pain, mobility and health, and can provide helpful information in care and surveillance after surgery.

Introducing an Alternative Option

Typically, following lung cancer surgery, patients are asked to return at six- or 12-month intervals for the next five years to obtain CT scans so physicians can watch for new or recurrent cancers. Nationally, about one-third of patients drop out before long-term surveillance is complete. A major factor? Inconvenience.

“In asking patients, what we found was the travel distance was too far for some, and also a lot have to ask children or neighbors to drive them,” says Kristina Davis, MS, MPH, a clinical quality leader in the Northwestern Medicine Quality Innovation Center.

With the new remote surveillance option, patients in the Northwestern Medicine Lung Cancer Program can obtain follow-up CT scans at any Northwestern Medicine site. And through a phone call, NM MyChart messaging or the MyNM app, they can submit a self-assessment of their current status and quality of life to their care team. NM MyChart and the MyNM app offer an easy way to send secure messages to your physician and care team, as well as access your health information.

Once the care team has obtained CT scan results and the patient’s self-reported assessment, an in-person visit is requested only if indicated by the results.

Using Data

“Remote surveillance is a great opportunity to make it easier,” says David D. Odell, MD, MMSc, a thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and a member of Robert H. Lurie

Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, who leads the Lung Cancer Program patient-reported outcomes effort and helped drive development of the remote surveillance option. “Several patients thanked us for thinking about their needs in building this program.”

Patient-reported outcomes, or the patient’s assessment, focus on functional status and quality of life. Currently, most patient-reported outcomes data available to lung cancer physicians comes from acute and short-term care, says Dr. Odell, whose research as a faculty member at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine focuses on quality improvement in thoracic oncology.

With remote surveillance, the information is used not only to guide each patient’s treatment, but also to see trends over time among all patients at the center who participate in the program. Eventually, the data collected during long-term surveillance should yield valuable insights on health status across the group, enabling the care team to deliver better care.

The Lung Cancer Program is one of several departments collecting patient-reported outcomes through NM MyChart. Among other benefits, this feedback often results in more accurate assessments of patient health status than clinician summaries of symptoms alone.

See more innovative research and medical advances at Northwestern Medicine here.

David D. Odell, MD
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  • Primary Specialty Thoracic Surgery
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