What is Synoptic Pathology Reporting?

Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) recently posted a definition of synoptic pathology reporting, including why they have implemented it and how it will bolster greater health data for future research and treatment of cancer. CCO gives a great overview for anyone who has heard the term before, but never really understood the benefits of it or the push for adoption. mTuitive has been working with CCO since 2006 to implement synoptic pathology reporting in their facilities. Our xPert for Pathology system has been helping physicians stay in compliance with the CAP and CCO standards while capturing important cancer data.  It's a term that has grown in recognition but can still be unfamiliar to many. Pages like CCO's highlight the basics and benefits of synoptic pathology reporting, examining the strengths from a large, provincial level as well as discussing how it can improve the daily lives of physicians.

We have posted our own pieces about defining synoptic reporting (including a three part series on our former blog), but CCO spells out the basic meaning as a method that

uses an electronic report in discrete data field format (i.e., each type of information has a specific place and format in the report) that allows for the standardized collection, transmission, storage, retrieval and sharing of data between clinical information systems.

 For anyone using the College of American Pathologists' electronic Cancer Checklists (CAP eCCs), which most facilities should do for certification and reimbursement purposes, you are already using synoptic pathology reporting.

unstructured data in medical reportingEschewing unstructured text - the big blob of paragraphs produced by near-stream-of-consciousness dictaction - in favor of a standardized, synoptic format emboldens communication between physicians. Instead of hunting through blocks of words hoping to find the particular phrase (or a whole host of synonyms) to understand how to begin treatment, physicians know where to look and know what words can appear in that space. There's far less confusion for the physicians, which means greater clarity in treatment approaches, and greater confidence when presenting the information to the patient.

Furthermore, CCO also outlines how each piece of data, entered in to a specific field with an established lexicon/set of possible values, is now primed for use in research. It can be sent in to disease registries, EHRs, and other data repositories; bundled with all the other reports using the same synoptic structure, it becomes an abundant source of very powerful information. Now researchers and other physicians are comparing like with like, without having to massage language or using reports with incomplete fields. But why would this matter? If you are not a researcher, why should you care that the structured data is now primed and delivered to these information exchanges? Because this is the data that will impact your practice, your treatment, even your life. Big data is being used more and more by health facilities:

If you're a physician, it's these pools of data that will inform your best practices and maybe even influence reimbursement. If you're a patient, this information will help refine your treatments to ensure that the best outcome can be attained with the most informed decisions. By reporting crucial medical information synoptically, pathologists are empowering their findings allowing individual points of data on a single person's sample to join in a chorus of health data that can transform our understanding of disease and the manner in which we treat it.

Pages like CCO's are important in helping more people understand the literal definition, practical application and medical ramifications of synoptic pathology reporting. Technology enables us to utilize data to deepen our understanding and improve treatment of diseases. But we can't utilize data if it's captured poorly, or inefficiently, or without any semblance of structure or standardization.




photo credit: via photopin