visualize | communicate | ENGAGE
A number of different groups use the online data visualizations. These include MCR-ARC staff, graduate research assistants and a variety of other researchers and health professionals. According to Dr Jackson-Thompson, the number of external users is growing. This includes program consultants at the CDC who have reacted in a positive way to the initiative. Dr Jackson-Thompson also believes that local health departments will find the website useful because it is important for them to have county-level data. “Many of our counties do not have the resources to put something like this together themselves,” she says.
Dr Jackson-Thompson says that although the Center bought the server version of InstantAtlas around 12 months ago, staff has not yet used it to its full potential. “We are really looking forward to getting more out of it,” she says. One possibility she and members of her team are exploring is InstantAtlas’ use as a project management tool, e.g. plotting locations of pilot sites for a project to bring data from clinic/physician office electronic health records (EHRs) directly into the central registry.
“We will also be able to look in depth at various cancers that are amenable to prevention or early detection. The ability to visually display maps and graphs as well as tables and present in a user-friendly visual format will inevitably garner more support for the Center’s work.”
The Missouri Cancer Registry and Research Center (MCR-ARC) was established in 1972 and became a population-based registry in 1985. Originally located in the Missouri Department of Health, which is now known as the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), MCR-ARC is located on the campus of the University of Missouri-Columbia and is a collaborative partnership between DHSS and the University of Missouri. The Center is supported in part by a cooperative agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) and DHSS and a surveillance contract between DHSS and the University of Missouri.
Dr Jeannette Jackson-Thompson, MSPH, PhD is director of the Center. She is also a Research Associate Professor in the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) School of Medicine’s Department of Health Management and Informatics and core faculty in the MU Informatics Institute.
Dr Jackson-Thompson says that the MCR-ARC team had been looking for a data visualization tool to present data in a format that could be easily understood by a wide range of individuals. As well as hospital inpatient and outpatient data, the Center also collects, consolidates, edits, analyzes and disseminates cancer incidence data from pathology laboratories, ambulatory surgery centers, freestanding cancer clinics and treatment centers, physicians and long-term care facilities. Changes in medical practice and the healthcare delivery system mean that an increasing number of cancer cases are now being diagnosed and treated outside the hospital setting.
Dr Jackson-Thompson explains that the Center expressed interest in InstantAtlas and after a demonstration and further evaluation found that the Center’s existing data would integrate well with InstantAtlas. “We discovered that InstantAtlas was easy to use and our data could be linked with no major issues,” she says.
Meeting the need
“The ability to have two maps has been a major incentive for us. For example breast mammography screening rates and breast cancer rates can be shown alongside each other. This gives you two sides of the same story and means that you can look deeper into the data. One county may appear to have a higher incident rate and then you look at the early stage detection rates and you can see there is a link. In this case it’s actually a reflection of the effectiveness of screening,” says Dr Jackson-Thompson.