To Abstract or Not to Abstract? That is Cancer Registry's Biggest Question

Posted by Linda Fine

images-1.jpgWith each tick of the clock cancer registrars are feeling more and more anxious to receive information from the cancer registry standard setters regarding the 2016 changes.  This information is usually released in January, however, six months later many registrars are finding their hands tied.  Until the new standards are released to the software vendors and state registries, no one can complete or submit 2016 cases to state or regional registries.

For those of us who have been in this field for a long time, this is nothing new.  Although this delay is more substantial than any in the past, it is not the first.  Registrars who are newer to the field likely feel frustrated; they are ready to abstract only to be told that cases cannot be submitted to the state and central registries because the updated software and systems needed are not available.

So what do we do?  Do we abstract or not?  First, we would like to offer you some encouragement and pass along some lessons that we’ve learned from this situation over the years.

Registrars have already received information from their state and regional registries and vendors about not transmitting any 2016 cases until the registry software has been updated.  But just because registrars cannot transmit any 2016 cases doesn’t mean that they should stop abstracting. 

I recommend doing this now while resources are abundant.  Then, once the software is available, it will just take a few minutes to complete the case and clear the edits.

If registrars choose to wait, they will be very far behind and will have created a lot of extra work for themselves when the software is loaded at the local and the state level and they are finally ready to transmit their 2016 cases.  Also, providers will be competing with others to find the abstractors necessary to take care of their backlogs.  In addition, at the time the new data items are added, this can be used as an opportunity to do a quick abstract quality review before setting the cases to complete for transmission.

From experience, we’ve learned that it saves time and it is much easier to just make those few corrections that will allow registrars to complete these cases than it will be if they have to abstract them all from the beginning.

Another reason for abstracting these 2016 cases now is to give registrars the time to learn about the data changes and the additional information they need to collect.  This is the time to ask questions, look for answers and decide how to handle certain scenarios.

While some have decided to use spreadsheets to track the data and cases that will need to be updated later, others are recommending that we add any additional data to our existing “text” fields so that we will already have the data in the abstract to draw from.  Whatever system registrars decide to use, they will all serve the purpose of saving time later when the data is ready to be added to all of the 2016 cases.

Now is the time to keep moving forward, not to put off collecting information for your 2016 cases.  When the time comes and the software is ready, we expect there will be a huge demand for additional staffing and help. Right now, CTR resources are ready and available.  But later, providers may find these already utilized.  If you are currently behind, we can help you catch up and keep up now to avoid some much bigger headaches in the future.  himagine solutions maintains a team of cancer registry professionals ready to help providers decrease backlogs, clean up data, and pursue accreditation.  We are using this “downtime” to abstract and prepare for the release of the 2016 standards.

What has your Cancer Registry decided to do about the 2016 cases?  I value your input.  You can leave your questions or comments in the field below.

Topics: Cancer Registry