EHRs can play pivotal role in cancer research

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According to a new report published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), medical informatics technology has the potential to dramatically increase advances in cancer research. However, officials at the ASCO warn that although substantial gains have been made in research into cancer and possible treatments using healthcare IT, many improvements could be made in terms of how clinical informatics systems can aid such efforts.

One aspect of particular interest to oncologists regarding medical informatics systems is the potential for genomic information to be presented to physicians and specialists when diagnosing subtypes of the disease. Such data, known as panomic information, refers to the specific combinations of proteins, genes, molecular pathways and individual patient characteristics that enable cancer to develop in individuals.

However, the ASCO has expressed concerns regarding the lack of panomics data handling capabilities of many clinical informatics products on the market, and has called for healthcare IT vendors to address such shortfalls in medical informatics functionality.

“There’s a whole new type of information being developed that electronic health records have not been designed to handle,” Peter Yu, director of cancer research at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, told Information Week. “ASCO’s blueprint envisions how the research system and clinical environment could be better integrated and makes initial recommendations for the pathway of how to achieve that vision.”

Among the recommendations outlined in the report, standardization of oncological medical informatics systems must be improved and optimized to include relevant research data, including more detailed patient demographic information, the molecular structure of specific cancer cells and detailed oncological treatment histories.

Other suggestions include improvements to the design of clinical informatics system interfaces and closer collaboration between oncologists and healthcare IT vendors.