Connected Cancer Care: EHR Communication Networks in Virtual Cancer Care Teams (Iowa)

Project Details - Ongoing

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Summary:

Cancer care is routinely delivered by diverse teams of healthcare professionals (HCPs) who participate in complex communication and interactions across healthcare settings. Electronic health record (EHR) systems have become a primary communication tool for sharing care-related information between HCPs. With widespread adoption of EHRs, these professionals are changing how they deliver care and communicate with each another. Evidence suggests that EHR use is associated with increased adherence to guidelines, enhanced clinical surveillance, and fewer medication errors, though its impact on teamwork and communication among HCPs is not well understood.

The overall research objective is to develop methods for measuring EHR communication networks—defined as EHR-based information sharing connections among HCPs—in virtual care teams and to examine the relationship between EHR communication networks and care quality.

The specific aims of the research are as follows:

  • To develop and compare methods for measuring EHR communication networks in virtual care teams for breast, colorectal, and non-small cell lung cancer patients. 
  • To examine associations between EHR communication network structures and patient outcomes, including 30-day re-admissions and emergency department (ED) visits, 1-year utilization of inpatient and ED services, and 1-year mortality.

This research will further the potential of using EHR data to understand complex communication activities within virtual care teams. Findings will be used to design, implement, and evaluate team-based interventions to enhance team communication in EHRs. The research team will test different methods for measuring EHR communication networks used by cancer care teams. While the complexity of cancer care makes cancer care teams an ideal setting, the methods developed from this research can be applied to other care settings because it focuses on EHR-based information sharing, a ubiquitous structure in team-based care delivery. The research team hypothesizes that the research findings will generate new insights to support health information technology interventions that enhance communication and coordination in team-based care delivery.

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