4 ways integrated technologies are improving cancer care in Australia

October 10, 2018 |  Oncology, Interoperability, Implementation


Cancer is a relentless and complex disease. Twenty-five years ago, if you were diagnosed with cancer, your chances of being alive five years later were only about 48-49 percent. But today, thanks to medical and technology advancements, survival rates have improved to 66-67 percent.

At Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, it’s our mission to push that number higher and higher.

As a large integrated cancer centre, Lifehouse not only focuses on providing clinical care, but also conducting research and educating clinicians. While an immense part of our mission is to work on research for new treatments and therapies, we must also focus on using supportive technology that will help transform the way we deliver those treatments in cancer care.

Bringing these components together is what we envisioned for an integrated cancer treatment centre where patients and their families would not feel alone in dealing with all the elements that arise when being treated for cancer. That was the vision of my friend and colleague Professor Chris O’Brien, when he proposed building a comprehensive cancer centre – Lifehouse, the hospital that bears his name and honors his legacy.

Innovation and Transformation

An integrated EMR is central to our overall strategy of caring for the whole patient, for the entirety of their treatment cycles. Here are a few of the most important ways that our EMR is supporting our goals:

  • Implementing clinically-advanced pharmacy and oncology solutions, as well as stock control (aka materials management) rounded out our EMR by integrating clinical decision support with evidence- and experience-based content, and also allowed us to move from paper to electronic ordering.
  • Doctors can now order chemotherapeutic medications and treatment plans electronically, saving time and improving quality and safety by moving away from what was often a complex paper-based process.
  • On top of all the clinical efficiencies, we’ve also added another layer of patient safety. Now there are suggested regimens that match the patient’s diagnosis, created in such a way that it would be very difficult to accidentally order the wrong regimen.
  • Not having to work across disparate systems is a huge benefit, especially when you’re working with such rare and highly difficult cancer cases. By reaching new levels of digital maturity, we can order complex treatments far more easily.

Commit to Collaboration

Sydney is a city that can contribute significantly to breakthroughs in the area of cancer treatment. But most research today is a collaborative effort. It takes teams of people across multiple cities and multiple countries to do research.

We currently have more than 140 clinical trials and research projects underway at Lifehouse, carried out by the same clinicians who treat patients, because we believe this shortens the path between discovery and new treatments for those patients. Comprehensive cancer centres in the United States and Europe who use this same approach show outcomes that are 5 to 15 percent better for patients after five years.

Whether in research or use of technology, our organisation’s commitment to collaboration is why we looked beyond our own borders to see how other facilities were tackling oncology management. We found a leading cancer centre in the UK, Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Wirral, England, had completed an implementation similar to the one we were undertaking. Prior to finding the right system, they had experienced similar challenges around cumbersome prescribing, lack of clinical decision support, and limited access to patient information.

Site visits and discussions with Clatterbridge helped to solidify our decisions. We also made a point to involve our nurses, pharmacists, and doctors in the system build and rollout. This meant  that the implementation project would take a collaborative approach, encompassing both IT and clinical perspectives. You can’t create efficiencies if you don’t understand clinicians’ workflows and what they need in order to care for their patients.

You’ll often read the phrase ‘purpose-built’ when we refer to Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. That’s because whether it comes to clinical care, research, or technology, we’re dedicated to transforming every component of cancer care and improving its delivery through integration and a team-based problem solving approach. Staying focused on this mission has helped us to implement the right tools and strategies for the long-term benefit of both our clinicians and our patients.

Download our white paper, MEDITECH’s Oncology Solution Integrates Cancer Management, to learn how our Oncology solution can increase efficiency, improve patient outcomes, and help coordinate care.

Download the Oncology White Paper

Written by Professor Michael Boyer, AM, Chief Clinical Officer, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Australia

Michael Boyer has been an oncologist for more than 25 years, specialising in the treatment of thoracic and head and neck cancers. He was appointed Chief Clinical Officer at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in 2011. In 2010, he was made a member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his work as an educator, a clinical trials researcher and for his involvement in the development of integrated care facilities for people suffering with cancer. Michael has been involved in the Lifehouse project from the very beginning, alongside his friend and colleague Professor Chris O’Brien, and remains dedicated to helping guide the clinical direction of the facility.