April 2024News

New software overcomes complexities to transform scheduling in Oncology Clinic

Down-time for patients is reduced, with staff working at heightened efficiency

Dynamic software, recently introduced in the Segal Cancer Centre, has greatly simplified the complex process of scheduling patients for chemotherapy and immunotherapy, with a significant boost in efficiency.

OROT, the connected health innovation hub of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, played a pivotal role in identifying and acquiring the ideal tool—developed by Gray Oncology Solutions of Montreal—and in helping to ensure that the software would meet the JGH’s needs.

Karine Lepage, a Nurse and Clinical-Administrative Coordinator in the Departments of Medicine and Oncology, explains that scheduling a chemotherapy or immunotherapy session is vastly more complicated than, for instance, booking an ordinary blood test.

Of key importance, she says, is making certain that the 65 patients who regularly come to the Oncology Clinic get as much personal support as they need from the 10 nurses on duty—with the understanding that the nurses also need time of their own for meals and breaks.

Every effort must also be made to keep patients from having to wait unnecessarily, and to avoid having a treatment chair sit empty for a significant amount of time, Ms. Lepage adds.

And that’s not all: Various patients receive different types of treatment for varying lengths of time, depending on the complexity of their medical requirements. As well, a single nurse usually works with multiple patients simultaneously.

This means the appointments have to be staggered in such a way as to allow each nurse to start treatment, perform monitoring and evaluation, and end treatment at times that, ideally, are appropriate for each patient.

Credit where it’s due

Karine Lepage acknowledges the essential contributions of the following members of staff in the implementation of the Gray scheduling software in the Oncology Clinic:

  • Jasmine Alami, Head Nurse of the Oncology Clinic
  • Alexandra Novitskaya, Nurse Clinician and Assistant Head Nurse of the Oncology Clinic
  • Renata Benc, Nursing Consultant
  • Josée Duquette, Administrative Assistant

For all of these interconnected reasons, the Oncology Clinic has typically relied on one full‑time administrative assistant and one part-time nurse to create the schedule. But because these professionals used to work with a static tool, the results were often less than optimal.

“We were able to move the individual appointments to various positions in the schedule,” says Ms. Lepage, “but the software didn’t give us any help in deciding what would work best. There was no digital thinking behind it.”

By using the Gray software, she says, nurses can now maximize the use of their time and leave patients feeling reassured that everything is being handled punctually and with proper attention to their comfort and medical needs.

At the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM), which preceded the JGH in implementing the application, the number of treatments increased by 5 per cent, without the need to add staff. At the same time, Ms. Lepage notes, job satisfaction improved among nurses in the oncology clinic at the CHUM.

“The computerized system, with minimal supervision and in a matter of seconds, can see possibilities that you as a human don’t have the capacity to envision or take advantage of.”

However, she says, efficiency is not the sole objective: A member of staff always reviews and verifies the computer’s recommendations to ensure they make practical sense for patients and personnel alike.

Danina Kapetanovic, the CIUSSS’s Chief Innovation Officer and Head of OROT, says she’s happy she was able to help the Oncology Clinic find the solution it needed, since “scheduling in medical oncology can be a nightmare.

“What they got was a computerized system that, with minimal supervision and in a matter of seconds, can see possibilities that you as a human don’t have the capacity to envision or take advantage of.”

This is in line with OROT’s mandate of using its expertise as a conduit for innovation—that is, to determine what kind of tool is required for a particular purpose, and then arrange for it to be placed it in the hands of those who can use it to improve the quality health care and social services.

For this reason, OROT is one of the pillars of Care Everywhere, the CIUSSS’s broad-based, user-centred approach that strives to achieve the right outcomes by delivering the right care at the right time in the location that’s most appropriate, safest and most convenient for healthcare users.

In this instance, Ms. Lepage approached Ms. Kapetanovic, who discussed the matter with her and her colleagues, and then arranged for them to meet their clinical and IT counterparts at the CHUM to determine whether the Gray software would be appropriate for the JGH.

Ms. Kapetanovic also spoke with Jacques Laporte, the CIUSSS’s Chief Information Officer, in the hope that he might know of some way to defray the cost of acquiring and installing the new application.

Mr. Laporte came through, identifying a fund in the Ministry of Health and Social Services that specifically helps healthcare facilities upgrade their infrastructure. This made it possible for IT to prepare the software for use in just three months, with a start‑up date of November 2023.

“IT did a superb job in supporting the process and integrating the technology,” says Ms. Kapetanovic.

The goal now, she adds, is to bring Gray’s capabilities to patients in Radiation Oncology, “enabling them to have a seamless experience, whether they’re being treated in Medical Oncology, Radiation Oncology or both.”

“We’re delighted with the results so far,” says Ms. Lepage. “When we make the best use of staff and take full advantage of the available time, it’s the patients who ultimately benefit most.”

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