No silver bullet for comprehensive cancer information

The Ministry of Health has published a new plan to improve the collection, storage and provision of cancer health information as part of a national approach.

Aligned with the New Zealand Cancer Plan, the new Cancer Health Information Strategy provides a five-year framework for changes to the way cancer clinical data and patient information is collected and stored.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the strategy will ensure information is consistent and accessible across the country and will help to inform future investment in cancer health information-based initiatives.

“Currently information is collected and stored by a range of health professionals which makes it challenging to get a comprehensive view of a patient,” Dr Coleman said.

“While progress has been made in joining information across DHBs, until now there has been no national approach.”

Andrew Simpson, the Ministry of Health's national clinical director for cancer, writes in the foreword to the strategy that it would be a pragmatic approach to achieving the vision of comprehensive, accessible and accurate information to support the delivery of quality care across the cancer patient pathway.

“It is built on the premise that there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to achieving this goal,” Dr Simpson said. “It requires commitment from everyone working in the cancer sector to change the way they capture, treat and share information at all stages of the pathway.”

The main points of the strategy are to establish a national framework for managing consistent change to cancer data, information and intelligence; to standardise, digitise and make accessible cancer data at the point of care; to aggregate relevant patient and cancer service data into cancer information; and to analyse information, produce cancer intelligence and communicate it to stakeholders.

Underpinning the strategy are guiding principles including that the collection of patient-specific cancer health data occurs at the point of care wherever possible, and is integrated with patients’ health records, and that duplication of cancer health data is minimised.

Ethnicity data will be collected and standardised data definitions will be adopted including HISO's national cancer core data standards and the national specialist palliative care data standard.

As mandated by the National Health IT Board, SNOMED CT must be used as the system of clinical terminology used to capture cancer health information at the point of care.

The roadmap will see some initial analysis work to develop a set of national requirements for standardisation, digitisation, aggregation and reporting of key data points along the cancer pathway.

This will then be used to scope a detailed work program covering streams such as multi-disciplinary meetings, staging, co-morbidity, ethnicity, cancer data standards, aggregation and reporting and communication.

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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