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A Care Coordinated Journey: Breast Cancer and Technology-Enhanced Care

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October is a great month for so many reasons. Costume shopping with the kids, the beauty of fall and – for me as a breast cancer survivor – National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

It is a time to raise awareness of Breast cancer, share how early detection can save lives and remind us all that breast cancer is not just a disease that threatens women. It is a time to raise awareness to support all current breast cancer fighters, survivors, and those we lost before their time. It is also time to highlight what is needed to advance the fight against breast cancer … and that includes talking about how technology-enabled care can impact breast cancer treatment and research, and how patients like me (and our families ) can help) manage our care.

This is a month for raising awareness and alertness during the other 11 months of the year.

Nursing coordination cannot take place without the patient

I know how difficult it can be to go through a cancer diagnosis and what multiple procedures, treatments, and surgeries can be. I also know that a lot can be done to support patients on their journey.

For me, my journey was made easier by having a care team that included health information technology and shared decision making. Case in point: the biopsy results that confirmed my cancer were available to me on my patient portal before I went to or talked to my doctor. This gave me time to take it all in and do some research on the type of cancer I appeared to have. It also gave me time to reach out to a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer years ago. She helped me come up with a list of questions to ask my care team about my upcoming appointment. It made me feel better prepared for my doctor’s appointment. These important steps helped me process my diagnosis and prepare for the next steps. The fact that my care team supported my decision to obtain my laboratory results this way was invaluable.

A care team that involves the patient as an active part of the team not only fosters trust in the patient, but also creates an inviting environment in which they can share their preferences and feel comfortable participating in decision-making processes. I’ve seen this firsthand and it really added to my nursing experience.

This is also a principle that you see throughout ONC’s work. ONC guidelines are patient-centered, patient-accessible, and designed to ensure clinicians have everything they need to support care. For example, the final rule of the Cures Act supports patients’ access to their Laboratory results without delay (with certain HIPAA-oriented exceptions for things like protection against damage).

As a result of the final rule of the Cures Act, patients can open their portal, click the Laboratory Results tab, and access their laboratory results from the comfort of their own home. Other patients may decide that they prefer to wait their next doctor’s visit and hear their results from their doctor – and that’s fine, too. The final rule of the Cures Act helps patients decide for themselves how they want to receive this data. At the same time, the rule also supports the patient-carer relationship. These two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

Technological tools in the toolbox

Grooming tools aren’t just stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs. Using innovations in health IT as a nursing tool is more than the future of health … it is the now of health. I am now cancer free thanks to a vigilant gynecologist who sent me for a mammogram. In my case there was no lump to feel, no redness observed, or pain signal that something was wrong. My cancer could only be seen through the technological miracle of a mammogram. It was my gynecologist, radiologist and mammography who sounded the alarm in the middle of my 39th year of life. The alarm resulted in a confirmatory biopsy and a personalized treatment plan that included a risk-reducing double mastectomy and reconstruction. Until I turned 41.

I’m thankfull. Without my care team and this tech-assisted mammography, it could have been years before my cancer was discovered. And the mammogram not only identified the cancer, it also showed it visually in a way that I – a patient – could see and understand. My radiology team then took the extra step to walk me through the images and explain why this was a concern.

Even my second opinion was technology based. I didn’t have to repeat my biopsy or mammogram. Another provider in a different care system was reviewing the first imaging studies to analyze my case. Saved money. Time saved. Patient supports.

Let’s all clap our hands for patient-centered care!

Awareness & action

To say that I am a breast cancer survivor is a humbling and grateful experience. I know there is still so much to be done to increase the number of others who can say the same thing. Access to care, care coordination that involves the patient, early detection, identification and addressing of health inequalities that hinder the survival rates of people of color, innovations in care, technologies that have equity through design as a core principle, and patient empowerment are just some of the critical areas that we need to address in the fight against breast cancer.

It’s a long list. Yes sir. There is much to do. Yes sir. Health IT is a tool to make all of this a reality. Thank God.

This is a month for raising awareness and alertness during the other 11 months of the year. It’s also about taking action. So consider monthly Self-checks, will shielded (Look at that shortcut if you are looking for a screening program in your area) and spread the word. It can be lifesaving. Take it from me

Thank You For Reading!


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