How do health systems make the most of their valuable - and limited - genetic counselor resources? This was the focus of the recent "Hot Topic Webinar" hosted by the Association of Cancer Executives (ACE).
Presenter Nancy Harris, Vice President of Oncology at Sharp HealthCare - and former president of ACE - shared how the Cancer Genetics Program at Sharp HealthCare implemented several process improvements to increase access to genetic counseling services. As a result, the program is now seeing 40 percent more patients, and their success has been profiled by the Advisory Board.
How did they do it? Here are the top 8 takeaways:
1. Streamline Your Referrals
Design and implement a referral form that makes it easier for physicians to identify and refer eligible patients.
2. Enhance Your Staff
Consider bringing a high-performing administrative assistant on board. This resource can coordinate the family history questionnaire (FHQ) completion, schedule appointments and track high-risk patients over time. The end goal is to reduce the amount of time-consuming administrative work that your genetic counselor has to complete, so that they may operate at the top of their license.
3. Develop and Test New Process Improvement Strategies
Diagram your current processes and clarify the roles and responsibilities within each part. Look for redundant steps that could be reduced, or combine activities along the way to increase efficiencies. Other strategies include increasing access to information via portals to foster collaboration and build trust between referring physicians and staff.
4. Meet Your Patients Where They Are
Expand the number of access points that patients have to your genetic services. By meeting patients where they are, you can create a more seamless patient experience of care. For Sharp, this meant providing cancer genetics at two locations, both fully staffed. For other health systems, this may mean providing telehealth genetic services.
5. Implement Genetics-specific Software Support
Look for software that supports your strategic goals. In the case of Sharp, they needed a solution that would help them (1) standardize processes like the initial consultation, the genetic test results, and recommendation reports; (2) reduce the amount of time their genetic specialists spent on pre- and post-test admin work; and (3) increase the number of patients seen.
6. Automate and Standardize Manual Processes
Reduce paper by digitizing the family health questionnaire (FHQ). Automate patient email reminders. Develop custom templates for patient consults, making it easier for genetic counselors to create consistent, standardized reports. These are just a few ways Sharp has implemented software to eliminate labor-intensive tasks.
Related article: 3 Signs You Need a Cancer Risk Assessment Software
7. Track Your Program's Performance
Track the recommended medical management changes to better understand how cancer risk assessment, genetic counseling, and genetic testing impact patient care. In doing so, this provides visibility into your program, and helps you understand the kind of referrals you receive and the growth of your program.
8. Measure Your Program's ROI
Justify and continue to grow your program by quantifying the impact genetics has on downstream revenue. Measure short-term revenue by looking beyond the initial genetic consultation appointment at new opportunities like increased surveillance and preventive services. Long-term, you can calculate the averted or reduced costs associated with future and subsequent cancers prevented.
Want a more in-depth exploration into how Sharp HealthCare improved access to genetic counseling and testing? Download the recorded webinar.