For more than six years, Nova Scotia pathologist Dr. Laurette Geldenhuys and a team of about 20 other pathologists have meticulously entered information about people’s cancer specimens into a software database.
The data fields on the Electronic Synoptic Report have drop-down options for entering cancer type, spread, slowness, speed, etc. This information helps surgeons and oncologists determine the best treatment for each patient.
Depending on the complexity of the case, this work can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to complete, says Geldenhuys.
Thanks to some long overdue software troubleshooting, Nova Scotia Health can finally use this data to better understand cancer incidence, prevalence and severity statewide. rice field.
“We can tell decision makers how to best spend health care dollars to improve cancer outcomes,” Dr. Geldenhuys said.
What you can do with summary reports
For example, if Nova Scotia has a higher incidence of certain cancers compared to other states, setting up a screening program could be an option, she said.
Similarly, the data could be used to determine whether certain cancer treatments are more effective than others, Geldenhuys said.
“This data can potentially be very powerful,” she said.
Geldenhuys has requested the changes necessary to allow the software to provide full functionality.
The process of extracting data from the software to be able to draw these broader conclusions was supposed to be completed in late 2019, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Nova Scotia Health’s chief data officer. Matthew Murphy, author, said:
Although the pandemic didn’t officially reach Nova Scotia until March 2020, health officials’ information technology experts were busy planning in late 2019.
According to Murphy, installing new software always requires some sort of troubleshooting.
He said the team responsible for entering data on COVID-19 testing and reporting was also the team responsible for troubleshooting issues with summary reports.
“It has been consistently sidelined in favor of COVID response,” Murphy said.
Murphy also said making the necessary software changes is not picking up where the team left off. Rather, you have to go back a few steps each time you start working again.
He said having access to this data will shorten timelines and provide insight into things like cancer incidence, prevalence and severity within the state.
Previously, you had to wait a year or two to get such information from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
Now that the data can be extracted, Murphy says that not all the data that has been entered over the past few years has been wasted, but that it can now be extracted to get the full picture.
“It is encouraging that we can use this information to better support cancer care in Nova Scotia,” said Murphy.
“We want to use our data assets to improve the health of people in Nova Scotia and improve screening and surveillance.I think this gives us a really great opportunity.”
Reporting needs to be expanded, pathologist says
Geldenhuys is happy that the software is finally up and running, but would like to see synoptic reports beyond colorectal, breast, lung, prostate and endometrial cancers.
“These were the five biggest things we wanted to start with, but the others aren’t available yet,” says Geldenhuys.
A central zone thyroid cancer summary report will also be provided.
In a statement, Nova Scotia Health said the overview report covers the majority of cancers.
“We will consider how best to scale this approach as part of our overall digital transformation strategy,” the company said.
Geldenhuys would also like to see a governing body created to oversee electronic synoptic reporting within the state. She said states like BC, Ontario and Alberta have them installed.
She said the agency will provide useful data and ensure the template is updated as new ways of reporting cancer information are developed.
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