National pilot engages cancer patients

Model could be replicated for other diseases

Providing easy access to medical histories and treatment records is just one aspect of MyJourney Compass, a $1.7 million project funded by ONC and designed to help patients navigate the complex cancer treatment process and become more involved in their healthcare decisions.

Based in Rome, Ga., the project is one of 10 challenge grants awarded by ONC across the country, and is one of only two focusing on healthcare consumers. It is operated through the Georgia Department of Community Health and managed by health information specialists at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

"This really has the potential for making people’s lives better through education and knowledge, which empowers people," Phil Lamson, a healthcare consultant with Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, said in a news release. "Using MyJourney Compass, patients can have more direct communication with their providers on the common symptoms that often accompany this disease."

[See also: $80M more for RECs, HIEs and workforce programs.]

The pilot launched Aug. 12. It resulted from collaboration that includes two hospitals, a doctor’s group and cancer support organizations in Rome. Rome was chosen for the national pilot, Lamson said, because the community had already come together to fight cancer. Collaboration among the community’s healthcare providers made it easier to launch.

MyJourney Compass represents the merger of coordinated community cancer care with technology. Rome already had a coordinated, integrated and centralized cancer care system that helps patients navigate the confusing network of doctors and treatment options. The program’s hardware technology – inexpensive Nexus 7 tablet computers connected to a secure network – helps patients communicate with healthcare providers, access their health information and obtain credible information on the Internet.

A symptom tracker application developed at Georgia Tech and loaded on each tablet allows patients to provide frequent feedback to healthcare providers when necessary. For a patient prescribed a new pain medication, for example, the app may ask for updates several times a day to help the doctor judge whether the drug is doing what’s needed.

"Doctors know what they need to track, and when the patients report in periodically, there can be an intervention early if there is some deviation from what’s expected," Lamson explained. "If more frequent communication between scheduled appointments prevents a trip to the emergency room or admission to the hospital, that’s a big benefit for everybody."

"Everyone is amazed at the level of cooperation in our community," said Gena Agnew, president of the Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition, in a statement. "Here we have a private physician’s clinic with a standalone cancer center, a private and public hospital, a group of patient navigators and the NWGRCC. The cooperation is so well known that we were the first community considered for participation in this."

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