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2021 ASCO Quality Symposium: Top Findings from Texas Oncology Researchers

October 01, 2021

The 2021 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Quality  Symposium showcased research  that highlights the latest advances in the quality of patient care. Four studies led by physicians and advanced practice providers at Texas Oncology were among this year’s accepted submissions. Below are the key takeaways from Texas Oncology’s research.

Reducing Barriers to Support Services

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for psychosocial and traditional social work services among cancer patients has increased exponentially, while lockdowns and other restrictions have posed a significant challenge to accessing such services in-person. In response, Texas Oncology began offering psychosocial support, such as traditional counselling and group sessions, through virtual platforms by video or telephone call.

To measure the success of the virtual delivery, Texas Oncology social workers, led by Stephanie Broussard, MSSW, LCSW, ACHP-SW, director of palliative care and social work at Texas Oncology, completed a study of the patients who utilized psychosocial services (both virtual and in-person). “In 2020, we saw a 154% increase in social work referrals, highlighting the ongoing need for psychosocial services,” said Broussard.

This research confirms that in-person and traditional support services are still needed for those with limited technology and/or internet access,” said Stephanie Broussard, MSSW, LCSW, ACHP-SW, director of palliative care and social work at Texas Oncology

“We saw an increase in adoption and utilization of virtual psychosocial services. This research confirms that, while telemedicine and virtual support groups may benefit some patients, in-person and traditional support services are still needed for those with limited technology and/or internet access.”

Utilizing Digital Tools to Enhance Patient Care

Understanding when a patient should begin end-of-life (EOL) care is an ongoing challenge for oncology care teams. To help care teams better understand when a patient should consider EOL care, Texas Oncology launched a pilot project implementing the McKesson Advance Care Planning Enrollment Extended (APEX) Mortality Risk Predictive Analytics Model – a tool that processes qualitative and quantitative variables to assess when end of-life care should be considered for a patient.

“Of the physicians involved in the pilot, 95% found the tool useful to identify patients at high risk of mortality,” Broussard says of the findings. “We’re optimistic that it can help improve the quality and delivery of EOL care by helping care teams determine when to start the process.”

Another study, led by Debra Patt, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, a medical oncologist and breast cancer specialist at Texas Oncology–Austin Central and an executive vice president at the practice, aimed to better understand patient and clinician perceptions of Health Tracker, Navigating Cancer’s ePRO digital symptom monitoring program, which allows cancer patients to self-report symptoms to their clinicians electronically. Findings indicated that patients and clinicians surveyed feel the program is beneficial and that additional reinforcement of program benefits during training and implementation are imperative to improve clinical utility of the program.

Improving Nutrition Practices

For cancer patients, proper nutrition care can help prevent inappropriate weight loss, improve treatment tolerance, and enhance quality of life. A study led by Karen Smith, MS, RD, CSO, manager of dietary services at Texas Oncology, aimed to assess malnutrition screenings and nutrition services at dozens of locations within Texas Oncology though a qualitative survey.

We created the Provider Education on Cancer and Nutrition (PECAN) taskforce to develop comprehensive malnutrition screening, implement a referral process for at-risk patients, enhance nutrition education, and expand dietitian services,” said Karen Smith, MS, RD, CSO, manager of dietary services at Texas Oncology.

“Our study showed that, while multiple healthcare providers are involved in the nutritional care of oncology patients, there was a need for a more standardized approach to nutritional care,” said Smith. “In response to this, we created the Provider Education on Cancer and Nutrition (PECAN) taskforce to develop comprehensive malnutrition screening, implement a referral process for at-risk patients, enhance nutrition education, and expand dietitian services.”


For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.