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Data systems for assessing quality of cancer care: Are building blocks in place for person-centered care?

Mariko Carey, Christine Paul, Robert Sanson-Fisher, Heather Buchan


Introduction: There is an urgent need to improve quality of care across many areas of health, including cancer care. Accurate and reliable measurement of current practice is an important first step toward this goal.

Assessing quality of care data systems: This paper proposes several criteria that may be used in order to judge the suitability of current data systems for measuring the quality of cancer care. These include characteristics of indicators of care; the capacity of the data system to provide data that are representative of patients, providers and practices and the capacity of the system to be used for quality of care improvement activities. 

How do current approaches to assessing quality of care measure up?: Current data systems used in the assessment of quality of care include medical records, administrative systems, cancer registries and patient and clinician self- reporting. All these data systems have strengths and weaknesses and none performed well against all of the criteria described. Unlike other methods, clinician self-report, however, does have the advantage of allowing the collection of the ‘fine grained’ detail needed to judge the appropriateness of care. 

Conclusions: This study suggests that it may be necessary to consider alternative ways of collecting data for quality improvement purposes. Advances in e-technology may allow for the development of flexible, specific self-report tools to assess clinical practice, allowing rapid feedback to stakeholders.


Assessment, cancer, data systems, evidence-based practice, evidence-practice gap, measurement, person-centered medicine, quality assessment, quality improvement, quality of care

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