ARIA® for Medical Oncology, which offers clinics a comprehensive electronic tool for managing the cancer patient’s journey from diagnosis to post-treatment follow-up, was recently rolled out across Northern Ireland. As a result, every cancer patient in a province of nearly two million people now has a clinical record within the ARIA system. This successful implementation has inspired award-winning process safety improvements across the region.
Representatives from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust recently attended a glittering awards ceremony in Manchester, England, where they were presented with a prestigious MacMillan Cancer Support patient safety award. This annual award recognized the Trust’s efforts to enhance patient safety by introducing a standardized electronic assessment questionnaire, which provides certainty that all required steps have been followed when drugs are delivered to patients. This online proforma was facilitated by the implementation of Varian’s ARIA® for Medical Oncology system across Northern Ireland.
“We were concerned that certain things were not being checked routinely. This questionnaire addresses that. It’s a big safety process improvement for the Trust and one that has been made possible thanks to our extended ARIA implementation,” said project leader Dr. Paula Scullin, Chair of Cancer and Specialist Medicine. Gathering this information “would previously have involved multiple phone calls and handwritten notes that were not accessible to all members of the multi-professional team. It is now electronic and available for key staff to see.”
The ARIA system provides cancer treatment centers with powerful tools for managing the full spectrum of clinical, administrative and financial activities in multidisciplinary settings. It has been a valuable resource for radiation oncology professionals in Northern Ireland for some time, but was extended to all oncologists and haematologists last year when ARIA for Medical Oncology was installed across all the province’s cancer caregiving establishments – Northern Ireland Regional Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital, as well as three dedicated cancer units at Antrim Hospital, Craigavon Hospital and Ulster Hospital. Approximately 63,000 people in Northern Ireland are living with cancer.
The implementation of ARIA for Medical Oncology – named RISOH, or Regional Information Systems for Oncology and Haematology – has ensured that the region has two clear advantages that aid communication among care providers, both within and between Oncology, Haematology and Radiotherapy services, as well as with the wider healthcare system. ARIA provides all the Oncology, Haematology and Radiotherapy service providers with access to essential patient data in electronic form.
The system also offers robust interfaces that can transfer up-to-date information from ARIA to the Northern Ireland Electronic Care Record, which is accessible to all the caregivers in Northern Ireland who have a relationship with patients, including GPs, surgeons and pharmacists, greatly facilitating better coordination among caregivers inside and outside the cancer care setting. The system also gives the Trust complete flexibility in how to make the most of online connectivity, including the development of the SACT questionnaire. The result has been much greater consistency in how processes are followed. Victoria Campbell, deputy ward manager at the Bridgewater Suite chemotherapy day unit, explains: “We’ve found the introduction of these questionnaires has really benefited the processes we use for checking chemotherapy before we administer it. The information is a lot clearer and it has reduced the number of queries we’ve had with medical staff and with pharmacy. The information is clear and concise, and we find it a much safer way of carrying out all our nursing checks before we administer drugs to patients. It’s also speeded things up as the documentation is completed in real time, so we’re not running around trying to find notes and trying to decipher what has been written.”
Dr. Ian Sturgess, lead clinical pharmacist for oncology and haematology, agrees: “Previously, we would have received charts and we would not have had access to the patient’s records because they would have been in the clinics. Now, the notes and questionnaires used to assess toxicity from SACT are automatically uploaded and we can use these to do our professional clinical check of systemic anti-cancer therapy. So, from using the questionnaires that are on the electronic prescribing system, the pharmacists have found that any of the queries they would have previously had to phone for or look on patient’s notes, that’s now all available to them electronically and this can speed up the provision of therapy.”
According to Dr. Seamus McAleer, consultant clinical oncologist at Belfast City Hospital, the electronic questionnaires perform a vital role. “When I’m seeing a chemotherapy patient there are certain things that I should go through and ask them from a safety perspective,” he says. “These lists help me to be sure I do that. I feel I’m not going to miss anything important and the patient’s safety is protected.”
The system aids training as well. Dr. Aya El Helali, specialist registrar in medical oncology, states: “The electronic patient record offers us a platform which permits effective communication across centres. It gives us access to the most recent available data and information on patients including their treatment cycle time as well as complications or toxicities due to chemotherapy. It eliminates the risk of lost files, giving us access to the most up-to-date version of patient records. It provides accountability, so we know who has last reviewed and we get to review their clinical concerns.”
The information captured herein represents the genuine experience of the attributed individuals and may not necessarily represent the views of Varian or the above referenced institutions. Individuals were not compensated for their participation.