Tacoma, Wash.-based MultiCare Health System is taking advantage of an IT tool that advises providers in real time if the patient they are seeing meets the referral criteria for an institutional clinical trial.
In a recent interview with Healthcare Innovation, Annie Reedy, M.B.A., MultiCare’s chief research and education officer, explained why 12-hospital MultiCare was interested in deploying the Trials App from a company called IllumiCare, which has developed a “Smart Ribbon” a non-intrusive ribbon of information that floats above the electronic health record (EHR) at the point-of-care, nudging providers on different actions and information from more than 20 apps. This is the first time the Trials App has been deployed in a clinical setting, according to IllumiCare.
MultiCare has introduced the Trials App to its oncology and pediatric providers, with plans to roll it out across other specialties next.
“I think lack of awareness of clinical research and which trials are available in the communities where patients live and work is a major barrier,” Reedy said, “and that is something that we're focusing on at MultiCare’s Institute for Research and Innovation.”
Reedy noted that there are several solutions on the market that match patients to clinical trials, but most of them are focused on the patient side. “What I was really intrigued by with this product is that it puts the tools in the hands of the physicians, because we know that when they feel like they have access to clinical trials as part of that care delivery plan, they can more carefully assess the trials and whether it's a good fit for that patient,” she said.
Sometimes providers have six or more clinical trials that they're trying to recruit patients for, and one of the challenges is that many of the protocols have very narrow inclusion/exclusion criteria, Reedy explained. “What I like about this tool is that it gives the providers more peace of mind that all of their patients are being screened, because the technology is doing it for them. It goes into different discrete data fields and also free text and really is able to pull in all the data elements that we would normally use.”
The tool reminds them that it appears that a patient would qualify for a study. “The physician can then easily hand that over to the research coordinator and have the coordinator take a deeper dive and even talk to the prospective participants to see what their interest is in the study,” Reedy said. “There's data that shows that when the provider approaches the patient about a clinical trial, the patient's more likely to join the study, which helps with patient recruitment and shortens the timeline to get a product through the testing phase.”
So far, Reedy said, she is pleased with the utilization data that she’s seeing with the Trials App. “We're probably close to about 20 percent of the providers who are familiar with the IllumiCare product using our clinical trials app, which I think is really good because we have not yet done a provider engagement or awareness campaign about this tool.”
Reedy said another appealing thing about this app is that it sits within the clinician workflow. “The physicians are trying to engage with the patient and understand everything that's going on with them and at the same time they have everything in the EMR and if they have to go a few more places to look for this information, that is a problem,” she said. “With this app, all they have to do is make a quick click-through and it goes straight to the coordinator to then be able to reach out to the patient for further conversation.”
She also said she expects use of the Trials App will help MultiCare expand the reach and the diversity of the population participating in clinical trials. “We really want to meet the patient where they are geographically and in their healthcare journey,” she said. “We are using tools like this and also using virtual visits, so patients don't have to travel great distances to be able to have access to a clinical trial or participate in a study. I do think that's going to help to narrow that gap a bit further.”
In her role as chief research and education officer, she is in charge of how research meets the needs of MultiCare’s patients and allows the nonprofit organization to attract and retain top physicians and other allied healthcare providers. One institutional goal is to give providers an opportunity to add research into their clinical practice so that MultiCare can attract physicians who have that intellectual curiosity and want to do research but they don't have to go to an academic institution to teach. “They can actually have a clinical practice in the community and also act on their love and passion for research,” she said.
With all the current healthcare work force shortages, her role has expanded. MultiCare is making a concerted effort to work on increasing its workforce development with its provider base. “We've been looking at ways to expand our residencies and fellowships and partnerships with our medical schools and nurse practitioner programs so that we can be developing and recruiting top providers for our community. My role is a part of a dyad with our chief academic officer to grow and expand the educational offerings that we have for our provider base.”