More Progress Needed to Bring Oncology Practice Into the Digital Health Age

Edward P. Ambinder, MD
Published: Monday, Jan 21, 2019

Edward P. Ambinder, MD

Edward P. Ambinder, MD

The explosion of data in medicine and the need to manage the information has challenged oncologists and patients. Common internet data and interoperability standards with electronic medical software such as electronic health records (EHRs) have become the glue that holds our patchwork healthcare system together; however, these tools are still perceived as being unable to provide actionable data that are structured, interactive, and both human and machine readable. This is especially true for the many medical specialties within oncology. Seamless interoperability, intelligent workflows, easy navigation, intelligent education with clinical decision support (CDS), and appropriate medical alert notifications should all be goals for improvement.


Given the logarithmic growth of data captured and the merging of information technologies, interoperability standards should be applied to clinical practice, physician reimbursement, quality measurement, outcomes documentation, medical research, governmental regulations, business practices, physician–patient communication, care coordination, and seamless data sharing.

In fact, interoperability standards across the care continuum have become a top priority for all healthcare stakeholders. Oncology surveys, even back in 2006, show that EHRs do well with billing and payment documentation, administration, medical research, and patients’ clinical data.

Table. Industry Tools for Improving the Sharing of Healthcare Data

Table. Industry Tools for Improving the Sharing of Healthcare Data Regulations have produced excessive amounts of EHR clinical documentation requirements. EHR use has increasingly reduced face-to-face time between patients and doctors and, most critically, fails to provide what has become necessary for an efficient and well-coordinated electronic healthcare system. One of the missing parts is seamless transmission of holistic medical data from multiple separate EHR medical portals, data that can be easily captured, auto-updated with user notifications, and aggregated from multiple different healthcare sources.

In addition, medical data must be secure and compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Data should be seamlessly interoperable with all authorized and authenticated healthcare stakeholders and under the patient’s control, using educational and CDS apps, which are not currently sufficiently available in most EHRs.

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