Leveraging Digital Data to Inform and Improve Quality Cancer Care

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2020 Apr;29(4):816-822. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-19-0873. Epub 2020 Feb 17.


Background: Efficient capture of routine clinical care and patient outcomes is needed at a population-level, as is evidence on important treatment-related side effects and their effect on well-being and clinical outcomes. The increasing availability of electronic health records (EHR) offers new opportunities to generate population-level patient-centered evidence on oncologic care that can better guide treatment decisions and patient-valued care.

Methods: This study includes patients seeking care at an academic medical center, 2008 to 2018. Digital data sources are combined to address missingness, inaccuracy, and noise common to EHR data. Clinical concepts were identified and extracted from EHR unstructured data using natural language processing (NLP) and machine/deep learning techniques. All models are trained, tested, and validated on independent data samples using standard metrics.

Results: We provide use cases for using EHR data to assess guideline adherence and quality measurements among patients with cancer. Pretreatment assessment was evaluated by guideline adherence and quality metrics for cancer staging metrics. Our studies in perioperative quality focused on medications administered and guideline adherence. Patient outcomes included treatment-related side effects and patient-reported outcomes.

Conclusions: Advanced technologies applied to EHRs present opportunities to advance population-level quality assessment, to learn from routinely collected clinical data for personalized treatment guidelines, and to augment epidemiologic and population health studies. The effective use of digital data can inform patient-valued care, quality initiatives, and policy guidelines.

Impact: A comprehensive set of health data analyzed with advanced technologies results in a unique resource that facilitates wide-ranging, innovative, and impactful research on prostate cancer. This work demonstrates new ways to use the EHRs and technology to advance epidemiologic studies and benefit oncologic care.See all articles in this CEBP Focus section, "Modernizing Population Science."

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • Data Mining / methods*
  • Data Warehousing / statistics & numerical data
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Deep Learning
  • Digital Technology
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / organization & administration
  • Medical Oncology / standards
  • Medical Oncology / statistics & numerical data*
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Patient-Centered Care / organization & administration*
  • Patient-Centered Care / standards
  • Patient-Centered Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / organization & administration
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality Improvement / organization & administration*
  • Tertiary Care Centers / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Veterans Health Services / statistics & numerical data