For several cancers, the number of lymph nodes removed during surgery is associated with survival. Observational studies supporting this association have prompted considerable debate regarding the extent of lymphadenectomy, and in some dieases, absolute lymph node counts have been suggested as a measure of the quality of cancer care. However, for most cancers, lymph node counts may not directly influence survival in a causal manner. In fact, several randomized clinical trials addressing the question in lung, gastric, and pancreatic cancers have not shown more extensive lymph node dissections to be linked with improved survival. Despite this negative evidence, however, lymph node counts have remained a target process in quality initiatives. Misinterpretation of the evidence may be driving some of the pressure to broadly implement more extended lymph node dissections. As a process for more accurate disease staging and as a potential marker for the completeness of surgery, lymph node counts are likely linked to quality, at least indirectly. However, a causal association between lymph node counts (and extented lymphadenectomy) and survival is tenuous and has not been supported by high-level evidence.
Scott M. Gilbert and Brent K. Hollenbeck
Peter D. Stetson, Nadine J. McCleary, Travis Osterman, Kavitha Ramchandran, Amye Tevaarwerk, Tracy Wong, Jessica M. Sugalski, Wallace Akerley, Annette Mercurio, Finly J. Zachariah, Jonathan Yamzon, Robert C. Stillman, Peter E. Gabriel, Tricia Heinrichs, Kathleen Kerrigan, Shiven B. Patel, Scott M. Gilbert, and Everett Weiss
Background: Collecting, monitoring, and responding to patient-generated health data (PGHD) are associated with improved quality of life and patient satisfaction, and possibly with improved patient survival in oncology. However, the current state of adoption, types of PGHD collected, and degree of integration into electronic health records (EHRs) is unknown. Methods: The NCCN EHR Oncology Advisory Group formed a Patient-Reported Outcomes (PRO) Workgroup to perform an assessment and provide recommendations for cancer centers, researchers, and EHR vendors to advance the collection and use of PGHD in oncology. The issues were evaluated via a survey of NCCN Member Institutions. Questions were designed to assess the current state of PGHD collection, including how, what, and where PGHD are collected. Additionally, detailed questions about governance and data integration into EHRs were asked. Results: Of 28 Member Institutions surveyed, 23 responded. The collection and use of PGHD is widespread among NCCN Members Institutions (96%). Most centers (90%) embed at least some PGHD into the EHR, although challenges remain, as evidenced by 88% of respondents reporting the use of instruments not integrated. Forty-seven percent of respondents are leveraging PGHD for process automation and adherence to best evidence. Content type and integration touchpoints vary among the members, as well as governance maturity. Conclusions: The reported variability regarding PGHD suggests that it may not yet have reached its full potential for oncology care delivery. As the adoption of PGHD in oncology continues to expand, opportunities exist to enhance their utility. Among the recommendations for cancer centers is establishment of a governance process that includes patients. Researchers should consider determining which PGHD instruments confer the highest value. It is recommended that EHR vendors collaborate with cancer centers to develop solutions for the collection, interpretation, visualization, and use of PGHD.