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Health Care

Streamlining patient-tracking systems for nurse navigator


Roger Williams Medical Center (RWMC) is a university-affiliated teaching hospital in Rhode Island. RWMC launched its Comprehensive Oncology Program for Elders (COPE), the only such program in the state, in 2012. The program employs a nurse navigator to coordinate care for a large and growing population of older patients facing complex cancer treatments. RWMC tasked students in MIT Sloan’s Healthcare Lab (H-Lab) to evaluate the nurse navigator’s role and provide recommendations to improve workflow efficiency and patient outcomes. 

The H-Lab team included Supply Chain Management student Olivia Goldman; Roman Khabibulin, SFMBA ’21; Flore Nouvel, MBA ’21; and Christine Zhang, MBA ’21, who together spent months interviewing staff, researching relevant literature, and analyzing data to identify the core attributes of care delivery and determine common pain points in the nurse navigator’s current workflow. The students found the job hampered by a lack of standardized processes and inconsistent sources for patient information and care management.

To address these issues, the H-Lab team designed and mocked up a set of digital patient-tracking tools, including a dashboard to provide the nurse navigator with information on referrals and required follow-up. The team worked to optimize screening for functional ability, delirium, mood disorders, etc., to improve patient outcomes. The students also provided RWMC with a suite of recommendations for modifying current processes and establishing tools with key performance indicators to manage patients.

“The major benefit of this project to our organization was optimization of workflows and decision support tools for population management,” says Mehmet Erkan Ceyhan, director of Surgical Oncology Outcome Research at RWMC. “The MIT team has done an outstanding job.”

Zhang says the project taught her the importance of having a standardized process and a way to systematically track patient care in healthcare organizations. “Sometimes it might require extra time and resources to set up the process and the tracking system,” she says. “But, once you do that, your organization, the providers, and, most importantly, the patients will all benefit from the improved efficiency and quality of care.”