Big data, bigger impact: Rogel Cancer Registry makes work available for future research, patient care

July 27, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,
The Cancer Registry team.

Michigan Medicine is constantly producing data. The number of patients seen and discharged, the types of diagnoses, a breakdown of referrals, detailed information on enrollment in clinical trials … and the list goes on.

This is especially true for the Cancer Registry at the Rogel Cancer Center, where the team is required by both state and federal officials to submit comprehensive data on all cancer patients. 

“We operate under the umbrella of Health Information Management,” said Sanei Smith, cancer registrar. “And we provide a rich data source that is used at the local, state and national levels.”  

The importance of data

“The cancer registry database contains approximately 237,000 patients with approximately 254,000 primary cancer sites,” said Valerie Wasson, cancer registry data administrator.   

The robust collection allows researchers to analyze and track outcomes of patients experiencing a number of different cancer types, which allows them to hypothesize new research opportunities and develop new programs and treatment options. 

“Data collection consists of demographic information, cancer site and histology, staging, all the treatment done here as well as at other facilities,” said Angela Green, cancer registrar. “The data is used for research, grants and administrative requests.”

Making use of technology

While it may seem as though that the advent of electronic databases made all this work possible, the cancer registry has been collecting data at Michigan Medicine since 1936. It only began collecting data electronically in 1995. 

This group was also hip to the remote-work trend that has surged in recent months. The cancer registry employees 20 team members, only two of whom work on campus. They’ve been doing it that way since 2014.

But even their work had to change when COVID-19 began impacting the organization.

“We now need to pay even closer attention to the type of patient visits, such as virtual and phone visits,” said Jennifer Bader, cancer registrar. “Delays and modification in treatment impact the registry’s work flows.”

While the cancer registry’s work centers around data, the team members must be experts in a lot of different fields.

“We follow a standardized set of rules that are complex and require clinical understanding,” said Stacey Meredith, cancer registry manager. “And we must be certified to perform the work and undergo continued education to maintain our certification. That’s how we ensure we’re doing the best work possible.”

Impacting the future

The entire group has their eyes on the future and how their work could further impact research and patient care. 

“Our vision is to build an even more robust quality program for improvements and targeted education,” said Meredith. “We’d like to implement real-time abstracting so current data will be available for requestor needs.”

While their work tends to be more “behind the scenes,” the registry group knows the true influence their data collection has.  

“Knowing that all the data we collect has a major impact on cancer research and the development of better cancer treatments for patients keeps us motivated,” said Jane Kayganich, cancer registrar. “Each new case is a challenge; every case is different. The data we collect matters and sets new standards for patient care. We’re proud to be part of that.”