Experts to Offer Practical Advice, Glimpses Into the Future of Oncology Informatics

Experts to Offer Practical Advice, Glimpses Into the Future of Oncology Informatics

Dr. Jeremy Warner
Dr. Debra A. Patt, credit Korey Howell
Dr. Peter Paul Yu
When physicians think of informatics, the electronic health record (EHR) is likely the primary focus. Although EHRs have become a central part of any oncologist’s practice, developments in technology that push beyond the EHR and incorporate ever-changing aspects of care are ongoing. Two sessions will focus on those developments and practical tips for incorporating informatics into clinical practice.

Jeremy Warner, MD, MS, of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, will chair the Education Session “More Medicine, Fewer Clicks: How Informatics Can Actually Help Your Practice” on June 5.*

Dr. Warner said studies suggest that many doctors think of the EHR and the requirements of a digital age as obstacles, rather than improvements, in workflow and delivery of care. “We’re going to try to counter that prevailing notion and talk about some interesting and novel emerging technology and informatics solutions that can actually make practice better and more efficient,” he said.

Debra A. Patt, MD, MPH, MBA, of Texas Oncology and Editor-in-Chief of JCO Clinical Cancer Informatics, will discuss the implementation of pathways—informatics solutions that can help with decision support and improve value-based medicine—and predictive analytics, an emerging arena where data generated by clinicians are used to anticipate events.

“One example would be predicting the risk of hospitalization for a particular patient getting a particular chemotherapy regimen,” Dr. Warner said. “Texas Oncology is working on some advanced tools to incorporate that into the clinical workflow, which Dr. Patt will discuss.”

Decision Support and Improved Workflows

Dr. Warner will discuss the incorporation of external knowledge—which he described as anything not retained in the brain of the clinician—into clinical workflows. This would include how EHRs might be improved to act less as a billing system and more as a system offering integrated clinical decision support.

Elmer Victor Bernstam, MD, MS, of the University of Texas Health Science Center’s School of Biomedical Informatics, will also speak during the session. Dr. Bernstam’s field of expertise is human–computer interfaces—in other words, how, specifically, people interact with the technology. His talk will be on the clinical documentation that takes up a substantial portion of providers’ time and how that issue might evolve in the coming years and decades.

Finally, Joshua Mandel, MD, formerly of Harvard Medical School, will discuss the development and use of apps to improve care and workflow. Dr. Mandel previously created an open-source set of specifications known as SMART on FHIR, which can help integrate new health care apps with EHRs, portals, health information exchanges, and other systems.

“The idea is to extend the capabilities of EHRs by either having an app within the EHR or on a device such as a phone or tablet that can do a variety of tasks related to patient care, such as visualizing data, or providing clinical decision support,” Dr. Warner said. Dr. Mandel will also discuss the Sync for Science project, which is designed to help patients voluntarily share EHR data with researchers to dramatically accelerate the pace of innovation and discovery.

“We want the skeptics, the cynics, and the less informatics-experienced clinicians to learn about the exciting technologies that are out there today or quickly emerging and to walk away with a renewed faith in the ability of innovation and technology to make clinicians’ and their patients’ lives better,” Dr. Warner said.

Preparing for the Future Beyond EHR

With the rapid innovation in health care technology, informatics and precision medicine cancer informatics are extending beyond the EHR. Peter Paul Yu, MD, FACP, FASCO, of Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, will chair a Meet the Professor Session, “Incorporating Clinical Informatics Into Your Practice,” on June 4 as a ticketed event.

“It’s a huge topic,” Dr. Yu told the ASCO Daily News. “You could spend 12 hours talking about this.” Dr. Yu said he will discuss emerging practical issues about informatics in practice for the first half of the session, after which a less formal discussion will take place.

“Our way of thinking has to go beyond the EHR,” Dr. Yu said. “For most of the last decade, that’s how clinicians thought about informatics. They thought, ‘I’m losing my paper chart, and I’m getting this computer that will replace the paper chart—everything will exist in one place.’” However, a world of cancer information beyond just standard chart information exists in digital format but has yet to be incorporated fully into EHRs. These data will have to be accessible to the clinician.

Questions about how best to use an EHR remain vital, he said, but moving beyond those to incorporating decision support, accessing knowledge bases, and other issues will be necessary to move the field forward. Dr. Yu will discuss some specific examples of how informatics is affecting the ways pathologists create and share information. For example, biomarkers are now a crucial part of oncology care, and how those data come out of pathology laboratories and how best to use the information are changing rapidly. Dr. Yu also will discuss how standard pathology reports are being transformed into digital formats, with a greater ability to share the data among providers.

“For a good decade or so we’ve been consumed with how EHRs work, which one is the best one to buy, and how to use them in a way that’s going to be more efficient and not increase work burden,” Dr. Yu said. “But if we’re really going to get to the big questions that are transforming health care around improving quality, incorporating precision medicine, and so on, we’re going to need to think beyond the EHR and other electronic repositories of data.”  

–David Levitan

*Program information updated as of March 10. For session time and location information, please refer to the ASCO iPlanner on the Attendee Resource Center.