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Dana-Farber launching new research initiative to improve patient reported outcomes

Six hospital systems across the country are launching a new research collaboration to improve the reporting and management of cancer treatment related symptoms. Led by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the initiative, known as the SIMPRO Research Center, will integrate the use of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) into the routine practice of oncology providers with the goal of improving symptom management and decreasing hospitalizations.

Cancer patients contend with a variety treatment and post-surgery related symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, dehydration post-operative pain, among others. In many cases, these symptoms can be managed effectively at home through established practices while others may require more immediate medical attention.

SIMPRO will enable patients to report their symptoms in real time using their smartphone or home computers. Reported symptoms will be integrated in the patient’s electronic health record allowing providers to quickly access and respond to the patient.

“This multi-center research consortium will deploy system-level proactive approach to symptom management, 21st century communication strategies and team science to decrease patients’ symptoms and keep them out of the hospital, said Deborah Schrag, MD, MPH a medical oncologist and Chief of the Division of Population Sciences at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. As one of the Co-Principal Investigators on this initiative, Schrag notes that “if successful, this system has the potential to be a win-win-win for patients, clinicians, and health care systems alike.”

SIMPRO will develop, implement, and evaluate an ePRO reporting and management system—an app called eSyM. Patients’ smart devices will enable a secure connection to their cancer care team via the electronic health record and facilitate symptom tracking following cancer surgery or chemotherapy. The study will test whether monitoring the symptoms patients experience and providing coaching on how to manage them can decrease the need for hospitalizations and emergency room visits. The SIMPRO team will work with Epic, the most widely-used comprehensive health record software.

After development and pilot testing, eSyM will be fully integrated into the electronic health record at each participating center, allowing for direct communication and real-time updates for clinicians who will have access to a dashboard of patients’ symptoms to prioritize outreach efforts and coaching.

“From an informatics standpoint, this investment in the infrastructure of patient engagement, provider-patient communication, and mobile health is likely to have a very large, positive impact on patients, providers, researchers, and the healthcare community at large,” explains Michael Hassett, MD, MPH, a medical oncologist at Dana-Farber, who is serving as the SIMPRO Project Technical Lead in partnership with Epic, an electronic health records vendor.

The SIMPRO investigators will conduct a randomized trial to evaluate implementation of eSyM from a patient, clinician and health system perspective. Across all study phases, the implementation, adoption, acceptance, and adaptation of the ePRO system will be critically evaluated to promote better delivery of cancer care.

SIMPRO is supported by a recently announced grant from The National Cancer Institute in association with the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The six collaborating sites are Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer, Baptist Memorial Medical Center Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lifespan Cancer Institute, West Virginia University Cancer Institute, and Maine Medical Center.

For more detailed information about this project, please visit the SIMPRO Research Center website: www.eSyMCancerMoonshot.org.

Posted on October 09, 2018

  • Research
  • Deborah Schrag, MD, MPH
  • Michael Hassett, MD, MPH

Media Contacts

For all inquiries, call 617-632-4090 and ask to speak to a member of the media team. Please direct emails to media@dfci.harvard.edu.

Deborah Schrag, MD, MPH

Michael Hassett, MD, MPH