Stuart Goldberg, MD
A lot of information goes into the electronic health record (EHR), but doctors complain that it’s not that easy to get useful information out of it. A just-announced large-scale partnership between Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center and Cota is aimed at crunching reams of that data to provide doctors at MSK with a shortcut to interpreting patient information to make better-informed decisions about care.
Cota is a data analytics company based in New York that has developed a “nodal address system” that enables physicians to recognize patient subtypes and connect those with proven effective treatments. Cota officials have compared their nodal addresses with barcodes used to identify goods in the supermarket or big-box store. The 5-year deal with MSK grants Cota access to information on patients with cancer treated at MSK so that information can be sorted according to the Cota system and made available to physicians at MSK for use in treating their patients more effectively.
Stuart Goldberg, MD, chief scientific officer for Cota, said Cota is expert at making sense of dense and disparate EHR data and brings that skill to the table in this exchange of information that in turn will allow Cota to enlarge its scientific database by nearly 1 million patient records and catapult that company upward in its quest to develop a useable database of national significance in the fight against cancer.
“Sloan Kettering is one of the premier research institutions in the world when it comes to oncology. Despite that, the individual doctors still are having trouble figuring out what they’ve done [historically], and what doesn’t work,” Goldberg said. Much of the problem is related to EHRs that demand a lot of time from doctors in terms of record keeping but don’t make it easy or efficient to access the data doctors need for the decisions they have to make. “Even though MSK is a premier institution, their physicians still have that problem of “I put a lot into the EHR and I don’t get a lot back.”
Cota can not only improve data retrieval and interpretation, but also help doctors to build intricate research platforms upon which to advance their science, Goldberg said. “It’s painstakingly difficult for them to have to go to the charts and have to pull all that information and construct their own research bases for every single study that they’re doing. Cota is an expert at doing that. We know how to go into the charts, we know how to organize the data, and so we can jump start their investigators’ ability to do their work.”
Cota signed the deal with MSK last week, and its technicians are currently working to establish the pipelines that will enable them to pull the information out of MSK’s computer systems so that the analysis and categorization work can begin. The clinical data will be made available to physicians at MSK as soon as possible, Goldberg said.
Whereas physicians at MSK will benefit from greater clarity on practice trends within their own hospital system, Cota’s knowledge base will swell and become more significant for the strength it brings to outcomes forecasting. “We’re going to be able to bring that information into our tool box and use it to build national benchmarks of what is the best care,” Goldberg said. A longer-term arrangement with the New York based MSK is based upon the analysis of genomics panel assays that have been collected on more than 30,000 patients, and those will be integrated with the clinical information to identify research and product development opportunities for the life sciences community, Goldberg said. All information is de-identified to protect the identities of the patients.
“This will help pharma companies make discoveries that couldn’t be done without the use of real-world data, and so that’s one of the big pieces,” he said.
In June, Hackensack Meridian Health of New Jersey announced a partnership with Cota to pilot a study using IBM’s Watson for Oncology. Watson incorporates an extensive textbook-style database on medical knowledge that is used to support therapeutic decisions made by doctors, and Cota supplies the real-world evidence to back-up or enable physicians to cross-check the recommendations that come from Watson. MSK physicians have helped with the programming of Watson so that it can deliver real-time recommendations to physicians in the clinic or examination room.
“We’re looking at patients with breast cancer using Watson recommendations with Cota real-world outcomes to help physicians make better informed decisions, and we expect that partnership will continue to flourish now that Cota and MSK are working together even more closely,” Goldberg said.