Epic introduces genomic take a look at ordering device inside EHR with Ochsner as first consumer

Dr. Marc Matrana, Medical Director of Precision Medicine at Ochsner Health

On Monday, New Orleans-based Ochsner Health added a tool to its Epic EHR that allows physicians to seamlessly order genomics tests for cancer patients. The health system is the first in the country to use Epic’s “Orders and Results Anywhere” tool within the EHR giant’s genomics module.

While Ochsner Health is the first health system to integrate Epic’s genomic testing ordering tool, it is not the first health system to streamline genomic testing in its EHR. That would be Missouri-based MU Health Care, which added a genomic testing ordering tool into its Oracle Cerner EHR in June.

Epic’s tool lets physicians easily order Tempus’ genomics tests for patients from right within the EHR, with test results flowing directly back into the EHR. These results reveal genomic data about a patient’s unique cancer and identify actionable genomic variants and therapeutic options, including matched clinical trials. 

This integration is a big win for precision cancer care, Dr. Marc Matrana, Ochsner’s medical director of precision medicine, said in an interview. He believes physicians will be able to provide more personalized and effective care now that they can have a single view of their patients’ genomic and clinical data in one place.

Next generation sequencing (NGS) is a vital component to cancer care, Matrana argued. NGS allows physicians to take a small sample of a patient’s cancer tissue — or in some cases collect tumor DNA circulating in a patient’s blood through a blood test called liquid biopsy — and sequence that genetic material. This helps physicians identify certain biomarkers that may help guide their patients’ treatment.

“One-third to 40% of patients who undergo this testing have benefited,” Matrana said. “We often change therapies because of it, so it’s absolutely vital that every patient that walks in the door with cancer anywhere in the country has this genetic sequencing done.”

The ideal Matrana spoke about is still utopian, though, because NGS is cumbersome to order and complete. Often, it requires paper orders and back-and-forth faxes with a third party company, he said.

“It’s no wonder that a large majority of patients in this country still don’t get the proper genetic testing that they need for their doctors to make the most appropriate treatment decisions for them,” Matrana declared.

The goal of this integration is to make ordering genomics tests for cancer patients just as easy as ordering any standard blood test. Ochsner is currently building workflows in its EHR so that these tests are ordered as soon as a patient is diagnosed with cancer, according to Matrana. This would allow oncologists to get a complete view of a patient’s unique cancer before they even have their first visit, allowing them to put the patient on the right therapy much earlier in the game.

By incorporating Epic’s ordering tool, Matrana hopes Ochsner will not only increase the amount of its cancer patients who undergo timely genetic testing, but also increase awareness about the testing both in patients and providers. He pointed out that there are different types of genetic cancer testing, such as tests that determine family members’ risks of developing cancer and tests that show whether a patient’s cancer has returned. Patients — and even some providers — have a tendency to group all genetic testing together, but it’s vital that physicians know when to use the right genetic testing at the right time when providing precision cancer care, Matrana argued.

“We’re talking about the difference between going on chemo and living a year versus going on a targeted therapy and living multiple times that and with a much better quality of life,” he said.

Photo: Ochsner Health

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