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New and Improved – An Online Source of Cancer Drug Information

Cancer Care Nova Scotia will launch a new and improved electronic version of its Systemic Therapy Manual in early March. The reference is widely used by health care professionals throughout Nova Scotia – and beyond.

“The online manual contains very frontline information,” says Larry Broadfield, Manager of CCNS’s Systemic Therapy Program. “It offers answers to questions about such things as side effects, dosage, contraindications, and coverage under the provincial system. Health professionals need to have easy access to this information and the confidence that it is current.”

Larry BroadfieldLarry recalls a recent question from a physician who was trying to order a drug for a patient and wanted to know if there were any contraindications with another drug his patient was taking. The pharmacist looked up the drug in the test version of the online manual and discovered – within minutes – that the two drugs should not be taken together.

“This information is very important to health professionals who work in cancer care, but print versions are often out of date as soon as they’re printed. In 2009, we decided to move to an internet-based system that could be updated as needed,” says Larry.

The first version of the manual was published in 2004. The electronic version, now being tested, offers important benefits. It’s cost effective; no printing charges or mailing costs are incurred in its creation. The material is also easily accessed: information can be searched and located in seconds. Finally, the manual can be updated as soon as new information becomes available. Larry anticipates it will be revised monthly and six to 12 new drugs will be added over the course of a year.

The most recent version, released in 2008 is approximately 1,000 pages long, fills two binders, and includes upwards of 300 drug monograms and 500 drug regimens. A pocketbook version of the most commonly used material has also been created.

The latest version also provides additional information such as details about exposure risk for health professionals who are handling certain drugs and for the patient’s family and friends who may exposed to these drugs in the home.

Use of the online manual is also expected to assist in reducing errors. “Just-in-time information is one factor to improve the safety of the health system,” notes Larry. “There is a huge growth in the number of cancer drugs today and that will continue to grow in the months and years ahead. Having easy, fast access to accurate information is essential.”

Cancer Care Nova Scotia is making the electronic version of the Systemic Therapy Manual available to anyone who wishes to read it, including patients, their families and health professionals. “Although the information in the manual is written for health professionals to support them in providing the best care possible to their patients, it is available to anyone who is interested in accessing it,” says Larry.

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