Cancer registries and the electronic health record


Session type:

Eric Holowaty

Cancercare, Ontario, Canada


Recent efforts in North America and Europe to develop and adopt inter-operable electronic health record systems (EHRS) will facilitate real-time reporting to cancer registries and lead to substantial improvements in timeliness, completeness and accuracy of core information about cancer and its care. The promise of real-time data collection for cancer registries is based on the availability of networked source data from various sources (e.g., hospitals, pathology laboratories, physicians, vital records, imaging, OR reports etc.), ideally available in standardised and electronically digitised formats.

In North America, many pathology laboratory information systems are already configured to automatically search for reportable cancers and to send final diagnostic reports in near real-time to both the attending surgeon and the cancer registry. In addition, some systems that utilise artificial intelligence technology are demonstrating that information in free-text form can be collected and any associated cancer terms coded and transmitted with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity.

In both Canada and the USA, interoperable electronic health records (EHR) are being developed at both local and regional levels that would allow physicians to access all medical and health information related to their patients. It is envisioned that these local or regional networks will communicate across other local or regional networks as part of a national, and potentially international, system of health information. In the USA, it is estimated that successful national implementation of an interoperable EHR system could lead to health care savings ranging from $140 to $300 billion a year, in addition to substantial benefits in the quality and speed of medical care, and surveillance and evaluation of the quality of health care.

This presentation will summarize recent efforts in North America to encourage the development and adoption of interoperable electronic health record systems (EHRS). The role of standards setting organisations will be discussed, as well as important privacy considerations.