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Health IT Success Stories

Dr. Gould Customizes EHR System to Improve Continuity of Care for Cancer Patients

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Dr. James Gould is a founding member of and Medical Director at Oncology Associates of West Kentucky (OA), a rural medical oncology practice in Paducah, Kentucky. The three-provider practice serves a patient population comprised almost exclusively of individuals with cancer and blood disorders. Dr. Gould led the electronic health record (EHR) adoption and implementation process in 2004 for his practice. After implementing the EHR system, Dr. Gould adapted the system to better serve the needs of and improve continuity of care for the practice’s oncology patients.

EHR Adoption & Customization

When Dr. Gould and his colleagues adopted an EHR system in 2004, the providers made sure to select a system they could easily modify and adapt. “Oncology is a fluid field, so we needed an EHR system we could customize to accommodate new regimens and tests,” said Dr. Gould. The providers successfully chose a generic EHR system whose software could be tailored to fit the needs of oncology care.

Dr. Gould and his colleagues spent the first 18 months after EHR adoption tailoring the EHR system to their specialty practice. “The EHR system’s existing tools and templates were very flexible,” explained Dr. Gould. Dr. Gould took the initiative to customize the EHR system for the practice, creating oncology-specific tools for the practice’s physicians. OA overcame the challenge of tailoring the EHR system for oncology care, and Dr. Gould is still updating the system as needed. “If there’s a new test for lung cancer, I have to ensure the test is built into the EHR and make the system user-friendly for three doctors,” he said.

Health IT Improves Continuity of Care

OA’s customized EHR system is helping Dr. Gould and his colleagues improve continuity of care for their patients. With the EHR system, OA’s physicians are able to remotely access patient information from the hospital, from home, and while abroad. If one of OA’s patients is seen in the emergency room, for example, OA’s on-call physician can remotely access the EHR and send the patient’s information to the emergency room doctors. “Continuity of care is uninterrupted, even when we are out of the office,” Dr. Gould said. “Continuity of care is especially crucial for cancer patients undergoing active therapy, as their health statuses can change rapidly.”

When Dr. Gould recently spent a week abroad, the first thing he did every morning was check and respond to the messages and laboratory reports that came into the EHR the night before. On his trip, Dr. Gould received a message that one of his patients with lung cancer reported feeling confused and disoriented. From 4,000 miles away, Dr. Gould ordered a CT brain scan using computerized physician order entry. After viewing the results, Dr. Gould then updated the patient’s radiation therapy and medication treatment plan – all without stepping foot in his office. With the EHR system, Dr. Gould was able to ensure his patient got the best care possible and avoided visiting the emergency room, even though he was thousands of miles away. “In the long haul, the EHR system is a big benefit,” said Dr. Gould.

Further Health IT Initiatives

After a successful EHR implementation in his practice, Dr. Gould is bringing his expertise in oncology to other Health IT initiatives. For example, he is working as a beta developer with a health care software company to assist with next-generation software testing and treatment guideline development based on National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines for the treatment of cancer. “We are excited,” said Dr. Gould. “We will be on the cutting edge of oncology Health IT.”