Knowledge is power — and when it comes to cancer, the primary source of knowledge is data from each patient’s journey. According to Andy Corts, chief information officer at Sarah Cannon, the challenge has been determining how to collect data on each cancer patient in a consistent fashion and bring all the information together into one platform.
Using advancements in technology, Sarah Cannon is working to bring this information together to enhance cancer navigation and patient treatment plans and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
Building the Cancer Registry
Each year, more than 100,000 newly diagnosed cancer cases are seen throughout the Sarah Cannon Cancer Network. Historically, each facility has maintained its own records in separate databases. However, “Over the past three years, we’ve focused on consolidating all the data into a single cancer registry, and to date, we have more than 1.5 million unique patient records within the system,” explained Corts. “That gives us the opportunity to aggregate and analyze the data, providing further insight into our survival and quality metrics.”
Developing the Cancer Navigation Platform
One of the biggest challenges for a cancer center is patient navigation—collecting relevant data on each patient’s journey from diagnosis through survivorship. With this in mind, Sarah Cannon developed a cancer navigation app called iNavigate that standardizes navigation in every facility and enables more efficient and effective care pathways and treatments.
To date, more than 200 nurse navigators across Sarah Cannon have guided nearly 18,000 patients through the cancer journey. This data has been stored on the secure navigation platform, which Corts explains is “a huge asset to the patient as well as to us, especially given that cancer care is often a fragmented experience. We are aspiring to create the ‘Uber’ for each patient’s cancer journey — enabling a seamless journey whether it’s through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation oncology, molecular diagnostics, or traditional diagnostics— across the whole continuum of care within our navigational platform.”
Advancing Personalized Medicine
“Personalized medicine has been one of the most exciting developments in cancer care,” said Corts. “This approach to diagnosis and treatment has seen tremendous breakthroughs for patients, and it has accelerated faster than we ever would have anticipated.”
Through the personalized medicine approach, researchers work to identify specific mutations or alterations that can cause a particular type of cancer. In determining these mutations, oncologists can then identify treatment options for each patient’s specific cancer that may be more effective. As Sarah Cannon aggregates more and more data on various mutations and genetic profiles, oncologists are armed with insights for selecting the best treatment options for patients.
Sarah Cannon recently partnered with Syapse, who has created a platform for aggregating the data that had previously been maintained in individual reports. Syapse will take the relevant data from lab reports and store it in a secure database so it can be analyzed. This structured format will create an efficient and effective way to gather information and improve how we treat cancer patients going forward.
Leveraging Data to Benefit Patients
While the work being done through the Syapse collaboration is currently in the pilot stage, the iNavigate platform for cancer navigation is used in about 75 facilities, and the cancer registry is very close to system-wide completion. Each piece — the cancer registry, cancer navigation and personalized medicine — is a valuable component of the whole puzzle for treating cancer. Combining the data from each segment will enable researchers and cancer care specialists to gain insights across the broad spectrum of cancer care as well as for specific types of cancers.
“It’s not just about gathering data but being able to use that data to determine the best treatment options for each patient’s cancer,” said Corts. “Our goal is always to create better outcomes for our patients as they make the cancer journey.”