MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The National Cancer Institute in association with the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot Initiative recently announced the funding of a new research collaboration, the SIMPRO Research Center. SIMPRO is a consortium of six U.S. healthcare systems, including WVU Medicine, whose goal is to integrate the use of patient-reported outcomes (PROs) into the routine practice of oncology providers to improve symptom management and to decrease hospitalizations. 

Hannah Hazard Jenkins, M.D.
Hannah Hazard Jenkins, M.D.

The six collaborating sites are the WVU Cancer Institute, the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, Baptist Memorial Medical Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lifespan Cancer Institute, and Maine Medical Center. To accomplish this research project, the SIMPRO team will work with Epic, the most widely-used comprehensive health record software, to develop, implement, and evaluate an ePRO reporting and management system — an app called eSyM. The eSyM system will be developed within and deployed through Epic, which is used by all six participating institutions.

Patients’ smart devices will enable a secure connection to their cancer care team via the electronic health record and facilitate symptom tracking following cancer surgery or chemotherapy. The study will test whether monitoring the symptoms patients experience and providing coaching on how to manage them can decrease the need for hospitalizations and emergency room visits. 

“In a rural state like West Virginia, patients often travel great distances to come to Morgantown for their oncology care. Our goal is to have real-time reporting of symptoms by our patients, so we can treat their symptoms if they become worse over time,” Hannah Hazard Jenkins, M.D., surgical oncologist at the WVU Cancer Institute and co-principal investigator on the project, said. “By having patients report symptoms in a timelier fashion, we can respond quicker and head off trips to the emergency room and even subsequent in-patient stays.”

After development and pilot testing, eSyM will be fully integrated into the electronic health record at each participating center, allowing for direct communication and real-time updates for clinicians who will have access to a dashboard of patients’ symptoms to prioritize outreach efforts and coaching. 

“From an informatics standpoint, this investment in the infrastructure of patient engagement, provider-patient communication, and mobile health is likely to have a very large, positive impact on patients, providers, researchers, and the healthcare community at large,” explained Michael Hassett, M.D., M.P.H., SIMPRO Project technical lead. 

The SIMPRO investigators will conduct a randomized trial to evaluate implementation of eSyM from a patient, clinician, and health system perspective. Across all study phases, the implementation, adoption, acceptance, and adaptation of the ePRO system will be critically evaluated to promote better delivery of cancer care.

Deborah Schrag, M.D., M.P.H., medical oncologist and one of the co-principal investigators on the initiative, noted, “this multi-center research consortium will deploy a system-level proactive approach to symptom management, 21st century communication strategies, and team science to decrease patients’ symptoms and keep them out of the hospital. If successful, this system has the potential to be a win-win-win for patients, clinicians, and healthcare systems alike.” 

For more detailed information about this project, please visit the SIMPRO Research Center website at www.eSyMCancerMoonshot.org