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Published on February 14, 2017

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Membership in Big-Data Cancer Program Will Help Avera Improve Care

Sometimes you have to step back to see the big picture and allow those patterns to form before your eyes. That’s the idea behind “big data” projects where trends and associations come to light when enough information is brought together.

It’s not enough to have lots of data; you have to skillfully evaluate it.

That’s exactly the role that Avera Cancer Institute will play now that it has joined CancerLinQ™, an initiative the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has established.

In addition to Avera, more than 65 other facilities have joined the CancerLinQ™ system. Doing so should provide new resources for more cancer patients; information in the system can be studied by a range of physicians, making the pool of data deeper and potentially more effective.

Benjamin Solomon, MD, Avera Medical Group Oncology & Hematology specialist, said joining this “learning intelligence” network could help provide a wealth of information for Avera cancer physicians, as well as any doctor in the system.

“Efforts like this can provide the latest evidence to doctors in our system as well those around the nation – and the world,” he said. “It gives us the ability to make comparisons in treatment outcomes across a wide spectrum of diseases. Our participation may help improve the way cancer patients are treated tomorrow as well as for generations to come.”

Avera Cancer Institute’s geographic reach, with locations in Aberdeen, Mitchell, Pierre, Sioux Falls and Yankton, S.D., and Marshall, Minn., means the overall contribution of information Avera cancer patients make will only be more significant.

It’s done in such a way that the information shared is called “de-identified data.” Taking that step insures all patients’ privacy while bolstering the information that can help stop many types of cancer.

“CancerLinQ™ gives us, as cancer care providers, access to the analysis of literally millions of cancer patient medical records, which may give us the ability to uncover patterns and trends. We expect to apply that information to patient care here at Avera,” Solomon said. “In addition, we hope to monitor our own outcomes and weigh those against approaches used in similar cases. We can also review the steps taken and compare them to recommended guidelines.”

Solomon added that since CancerLinQ™ is the only effort of its kind being driven by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, a non-profit, physician organization. The system helps to combine the shared expertise of leading oncologists.

“The simple mission is the same: improve the care of all people living with cancer,” he said. “Avera Cancer Institute now is adding to the collective experience and knowledge of cancer care. It may allow us to provide higher-quality and more tailored care for patients, no matter where they live.”

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