mCODE: New Oncology Data Standards for Interoperability and Streamlined Research

Data Standards

Tom Hagen of Targeted Oncology reports on mCODE which stands for “Minimal Common Oncology Data Elements.” This open-source system was introduced to guide and improve cancer treatment through electronic health record (EHR) systems to provide real-world patient data that could guide research and improve cancer treatment.

Announced at the recent ASCO event, its initial set of standards and specifications was announced a collaborative group including ASCO, its nonprofit subsidiary CancerLinQ, the MITRE Corporation, and the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology Foundation.

What is mCODE?

It is an open source system designed to allow the interflow of common clinical data from patients within institutional EHR systems. Data is collected on 6 core domains:

  • Patient characteristics and demographics
  • Lab tests and vital signs
  • Specific details regarding the cancer
  • Genomics such as molecular characteristics
  • Treatments including surgical, radiation, drug and other treatments
  • Outcomes, such as current cancer status and survival

Why Was it Developed?

For starters, a lack of interoperability and inability to share information among EHR systems smoothly has long been a concern among oncologists and an impediment to large-scale research efforts that depend on agglomerations of data that, when mined, filtered, and analyzed, yield insights into drug performance and patient experiences under treatment.

Harmonizing Oncology Data

15 million people in the U.S. are living with cancer and much of that information about them is stored in EHRs. These systems have their own standards for classifying data and priorities for what kinds of data should be collected. This adds to the incompatibility between EHR systems, interferes with care coordination, and adds to administrative work and the costs of healthcare.

Through its common elements structure, mCODE can bypass many of the communication barriers posted by multiple different EHR systems and protocols by the healthcare community.

Interoperability Standards: FHIR

mCODE embraces interoperability standards such as FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), a draft standard that establishes formats of data reporting and applies coding that facilitates the exchange of EHR information across systems. For instance, investigators mentioned when using mCODE, clinicians would be able to plug common clinical terms into a search engine and draw the data they need from institutional EHRs hooked into the system.

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