In order to minimize the negative ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the 617 Canadians who are diagnosed with cancer every day on average, Princess Margaret in Toronto has implemented a new virtual care management system.

The system was developed in-house in 11 days and has helped shift approximately 500 in-person visits per day. Sixty-four per cent of outpatient clinic visits are now virtual, and in-person activities have been reduced by 73 per cent, the institution said in a recent press release. The technology is supported by the research centre’s recently launched Conquer COVID for Cancer Fund.

Dr Alejandro Berlin, who is a physician and also the medical director of the Smart Cancer Care Program, leads the clinical deployment of VCMC for Princess Margaret. He said they already had a plan to shift a small portion of their physical visits to virtual before the pandemic hit.

“The pandemic was declared on March 11. The same day our cancer centre developed an ambitious goal of shifting initially 25 per cent of our visits to virtual and then that shortly became 50 per cent.

VCMS is a secure web app that uses the eCancerCare platform developed by the Techna Institute at the University Health Network (UHN), Tran Truoung, project director of Electronic Data Capture Solutions for Techna, and program director for Princess Margaret Data Science Program, told IT World Canada in an email.

“VCMS is integrated with the UHN active directory to handle authentication and has a robust authorization framework to handle multiple access levels. Patient visit data is updated from the UHN Electronic Patient Record (EPR) to allow for physicians to indicate which cases are appropriate for virtual visits,” Truoung noted in the email.

VCMS is also integrated with the Patient Healthcare Scheduling (PHS) system to pull the physicians’ scheduled virtual visits to allow for electronic documentation of physician orders. The electronic physician orders are customized based on the cancer disease site and provide a user-friendly way for physicians to complete and sign off their orders. The system, according to Truoung, allows for multi-level sign-off to facilitate communications between the physicians, administrative assistants and patient flow coordinators.