Marin Cancer Clinic was the first practice in the nation to participate in CancerLinQ.

By Kathy Holliman, M.Ed.

Gaining access to the experience of oncology practices across the country motivated early participation in CancerLinQ, according to physicians at the vanguard practices.

“If I can benefit from best practices around the country, it will directly benefit my patients,” said Peter Eisenberg, MD, of Marin Cancer Care in California, one of the first vanguard practices to upload its patient records data to CancerLinQ. “What I have to learn by participating is whether we are doing it right and taking care of our patients appropriately. Are we using standard regimens? Are our patients doing as well as we might expect? Are we missing something?”

Dr. Eisenberg noted that randomized clinical trials include a relatively small number of patients, have very specific inclusion and exclusion criteria, and “may or may not reflect the patients we see in our practice.” With CancerLinQ, his practice will be able to track, for example, the thousands of patients with lung cancer who are treated in a year and understand the trajectory of their care, he said.

Uploading data to CancerLinQ from Marin Cancer Care’s electronic medical records (EMR) system was challenging and “cost us something in terms of our practice manager’s time and our [information technology] guy’s time, but the potential for learning far outweighs the expenditures that we have made.”

Now that his practice has worked through the technical challenges with the help of the ASCO CancerLinQ team, Dr. Eisenberg and his partners will soon be taking a look at the rich data from their own practice. They anticipate that later this year they will be able to compare their data with practices across the country. “If somebody is getting better results in Kansas City or elsewhere, I want to know what they are doing,” he said.

“I think it was very bold of ASCO leadership to put such an effort together. It is a huge project but one that has terrific implications for the care of our patients. I applaud the team that has spearheaded this effort,” he said.

Montgomery Cancer Center

Keith Thompson, MD, at Montgomery Cancer Center in Alabama said that having access to the “combined wisdom of so many patients treated in centers all over the country will be a tremendous advance in our understanding of cancer and cancer care. The opportunity to understand what is happening with so many patients is a big deal.”

CancerLinQ, he said, will give physicians the ability to “measure their quality and look at what they are doing. Physicians around the country really embrace the idea of being able to look themselves in the mirror and see whether they are doing a good job and whether there are things they can do better.”

A team from CancerLinQ was instrumental in helping Montgomery Cancer Center upload its data. “They came in and analyzed the way we interact with our own EMR, asked questions about how data are stored, and then they analyzed our data before drawing it into the system.” That process, he said, took several months and a lot of hard work, “but they made it easy for us.”

Dr. Thompson’s center has recently started looking at a subset of the data, “taking it for a test drive” to understand how this information can be used to improve patient care.

Michiana Hematology-Oncology

Robin Zon, MD, at Michiana Hematology-Oncology in northwest Indiana, said her practice “couldn’t say yes fast enough” when given the opportunity to be among the first participants in CancerLinQ.

“The whole concept of using big data to better enhance our overall learning has been long in the making. This is a fabulous initiative that ASCO is doing, with the goal of improving quality and patient care.”

The Michiana practice holds about 120 tumor boards each year, she said. “There is something to be said about experience, which is above and beyond what you would get from a guideline. We would often say that it would be great if we could share our collective wisdom. We have all this experience in these file cabinets and now in EMRs.” With CancerLinQ, that depth of experience can now be shared with other practices across the country, she said.

Dr. Zon, a member of ASCO’s Data Governance Oversight Committee, said that she and her colleagues rely on ASCO as a trusted and honest broker. ASCO is “our go-to in terms of education, understanding new information, new interventions, new technology. It makes sense that ASCO’s CancerLinQ would be our go-to for rapid learning to enhance patient care.”

SUMMARY: The first participants in CancerLinQ say that gaining access to the experiences of other oncology practices will enhance patient care. Peter Eisenberg, MD, of Marin Cancer Care in California, says that CancerLinQ provides his practice the opportunity to learn “whether we are doing it right and taking care of our patients appropriately.”

TWEET:  CancerLinQ vanguard practices say they will have the ability to measure their quality and share their collective wisdom.