Healthcare IT Interoperability, EHR interoperability, Hospital Interoperability

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Oncology Big Data Initiative Fortifies Leadership Team

New executives will work to expand use of CancerLinQ's database of searchable, real-world cancer information derived from EHRs.

- Three C-level executives have joined CancerLinQ to help the subsidiary of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) expand its goal of analyzing data from the electronic health records of millions of cancer patients to uncover patterns that can improve care.

New executives appointed to CareLinQ, a subsidiary of ASCO, will work to expand the platform, which uses EHR data to uncover care improvements.

CancerLinQ is a nonprofit entity focused on development of its namesake health IT platform, which includes a database of searchable, real-world cancer information derived from EHRs.

New to CancerLinQ’s big data initiative are David Dornstreich, Robert Merold and Jennifer Wong, ASCO announced on Feb. 4.

“We’re building a team of uniquely talented professionals to advance this big data initiative,” said CancerLinQ CEO Kevin Fitzpatrick in a public statement. “These three new team members will be leading our alliances throughout the oncology community. These collaborations are critical to achieving CancerLinQ’s goals of inclusiveness, engagement, and collegial exchange.”

Dornstreich, CancerLinq’s new chief of corporate engagement, has more than 25 years of informatics experience with life science manufacturers, health IT and analytics organizations, and primary/secondary healthcare research groups. He previously spent five years at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) leading data commercialization efforts.

Merold will serve as CancerLinQ’s chief of strategic initiatives. His areas of expertise are healthcare data, analytics and enabling technologies. Prior experience includes development of the core information product suite for IMS Health, successful start-up operations in genomic/proteomic informatics, and consulting on applications of EHR data and unstructured clinical data mining.

Wong will serve as CancerLinQ’s chief of strategic alliances, working to build relationships with healthcare societies, government agencies, advocacy groups and “oncology thought leaders and innovation catalysts,” according to ASCO. She was previously ACC’s director of strategic innovation and clinical ventures and managing director of the Diabetes Coolaborative Registry.

CancerLinQ challenge

In September 2015, ASCO updated progress on the CancerLinQ platform during a Capitol Hill briefing and urged Congress to advance EHR interoperability and prevent information blocking by EHR vendors. At that time, 15 “vanguard” oncology practices representing about 500,000 patients had enrolled in CancerLinQ.

Robin Zon, MD, of Michiana Hematology Oncology in South Bend, Ind., one of the vanguard practices, explained that she can enter patient characteristics into a CancerLinQ portal, query it to mine de-identified data, and then identify trends that can be translated and applied to care of her patients.

However, Zon said during the briefing that because of EHR systems’ inability to communicate with each other “vanguard practices are having to dedicate time and resources — including my entire IT department — to be able to adapt the technology in order to implement CancerLinQ.”

In some cases, commercial EHR system vendors require a transaction fee to import or export information. “Other EHR vendors are flat-out refusing or making it prohibitively expensive to make systems communicate,” Zon revealed. “The bottom line is, if data sharing is not achievable, then the vital insights and the help our patients need will be lost.”

Jack Whelan, a volunteer patient advocate and survivor of a rare form of blood cancer, also commented during the briefing, “The vast amount of information and data that can help me and millions of other cancer patients has been locked away in systems that can’t or won’t communicate.”

Undoubtedly, CareLinQ’s new leadership will continue to press for achieving widespread interoperability as a core requirement for utilization of the platform.



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