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Nurse-Designed Software Innovations Are Changing the Cancer Experience

SARAH HANDZEL, BSN, RN | June 24, 2016
As nurses, we’re skilled at innovating. We have to be. The nature of our work means we often have to find new ways to help our patients. From new teach­ing methods to time-saving wound care tech­niques, every nurse has, at some point in his or her career, needed to think up something on the fly for the benefit of a patient.

This is innovation in action, and it's at the heart of the MakerNurse movement. Started in 2013, MakerNurse focuses on identifying and fostering nursing innovation in hospitals across the United States.

Every day, nurses and technology specialists are working to improve cancer outcomes and make both the treatment and quality of life better for oncology patients. These innovators are using technology to develop products and services that guide cancer treatment, educate patients and families, and promote well-being and a positive outlook.

While these individuals come from different educational and professional backgrounds, they are blazing a trail in the treatment of cancer. They embody the spirit of the MakerNurse movement, using creativity to develop techno­logical solutions in the fight against cancer.

Carrie Stricker, PhD, RN

Carrie Stricker, PhD, RN

It’s no secret that oncol­ogy care is complicated. Patients face a laby­rinth of personal and financial challenges during their treatment. Treatment teams want to provide the best evi­dence-based care possi­ble, but are challenged by the staggering amount of available information and trouble­some reimbursement systems.

Carevive Systems, a company cofounded by Carrie Stricker, PhD, RN and Madelyn Herzfeld, BSN, RN, was formed in response to the need to provide more support for patients, families, and care teams.

The idea for Carevive started in 2007 after Stricker noticed a striking need for tools to help navigate the complex world of cancer care. With over 20 years of clinical practice and nursing research experience, Stricker had repeatedly witnessed her own patients’ difficulties in nav­igating through the healthcare landscape. She was inspired by the seminal Institute of Medicine 2005 report, Lost in Transition, to help address the reality that patients who weren't receiving active treatment were "left behind" by the system.

In response, Stricker started to develop care plans to serve people transitioning from treat­ment to survivorship, but making these care plans was extremely time consuming and inef­ficient. Eventually, she realized that emerging technology offered the perfect opportunity to streamline the process. In collaboration with Herzfeld, Carevive was formed in 2013 (origi­nally as On Q Health) to help develop care plans for all phases of the cancer experience, based on current research and patient priorities. It’s currently being used in 30 healthcare systems across the country.

Stricker explained that Carevive’s mission is to “provide clinical workflow tools and patient engagement solutions to help cancer centers in providing comprehensive, value-based care to indi­viduals and families with cancer. The goal is to sup­port patients, families, and survivors in navigating their cancer experiences with optimal quality of life, and as active members of the care team.”

To that end, Carevive's cloud-based technol­ogy consumes and analyzes EMR and other clinical data sources, such as tumor registry data, along with patient-reported health data, to support the care team in planning patients' treatment, managing their symptoms, and sup­porting their survivorship needs. The aggregated data gathered in this process also are used to provide insight into the real-world ex­periences of patients with cancer, enabling pre­dictive analytics and to continuously improve outcomes.

Based on the information reported, patients receive a personalized treatment plan for managing their personal symptoms. These patient-specific plans are focused on such areas as pa­tient priorities, diagnostic data, evidence-based cancer treatment pathways, possible side effects, care and outcome goals, eligibility for clinical trials, and other resources.

Clinically, providers can use the reported in­formation to prioritize concerns during patient visits, encouraging better communication and collaboration between the healthcare team and the patient. The healthcare team can also use reported patient information to map out trends in symptoms, side effects, and patient outcomes. With so much of oncology care funding and reimbursement driven by census, statistics regarding patient treatment at various facilities can help drive cancer costs in a more benefi­cial direction for all.

Meg Maley, BSN, RN

Meg Maley, BSN, RN

The diagnosis and treat­ment of cancer might be the most emotionally devastating experience of a person’s life, but it’s not just the patient who is affected. Cancer reaches out, touching the lives of family members, friends, and even co­workers. Just as an evidenced-based treatment plan is essential in the fight against cancer, so, too, is a plan for the care and support of a per­son’s mental and emotional health. That’s where CanSurround comes in.

CanSurround is the brainchild of cofounders Meg Maley, BSN, RN, Jill Teixeira, MSN, RN, and John Brilliant. Both nurses had already worked in oncology for years; they collaborated together to shape an oncology home health­care company, and had both consulted with WellDoc, a technology company that created software for use in a variety of medical special­ties. Both women saw how the mind’s journey through the cancer experience is often—but not always—neglected.

As Maley explained, “we were very interested in the emotional ride … we wanted to pull togeth­er features that were researched-based and put them on a platform whereby people could access them 24/7, confidentially and on their own terms, to help themselves manage the distress they’re feeling and move them toward resilience.”

Thus, the idea for CanSurround was born.

The pilot CanSurround program launched in 2015, and the company is currently working to commercialize with cancer centers across the country. The program is available online and as a mobile app for anyone affected by cancer.

CanSurround estimates that for every 1 person diagnosed with cancer, at least 5 others are affected by the diagnosis. Patients, family, friends, and coworkers can all benefit from the program, which is focused on creating emotion­al well-being and a positive, mindful approach to cancer treatment.

The program takes a personalized approach to building resilience and reducing stress by utilizing tools and resources proven to help develop a more positive mindset. This is done through education and inspiration. Users have access to a wealth of evidence-based clinical information and cancer resources, including educational materials and checklists for differ­ent phases of care.

Talk about this article with nurses and others in the oncology community in the General Discussions Oncology Nursing News discussion group.
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