Ontario’s successes in pathology reporting have potential to improve practice across Canada

As is your pathology, so is your medicine.

So said Dr. William Osler, a Canadian physician and one of the founding fathers of modern medicine. He was referring to the critical role that pathology – the study of tissue samples to diagnose disease – plays in diagnosing cancer and identifying treatment options.

Almost 100 years later, we’ve made tremendous progress in diagnosing and treating cancer, and there continue to be opportunities to improve. A recent article in the Journal of Oncology Practice has showcased the advancement of pathology reporting in Ontario. Initiated in 2008, Cancer Care Ontario’s Pathology Reporting Project uses structured electronic checklists to make the reporting of diagnostic findings by pathologists more complete. This has resulted in the vast majority of Ontario hospitals implementing electronic tools to report cancer diagnosis, standardized reporting and more complete pathology reports. This leads to more effective care planning and better outcomes for patients.

These successes are being echoed in other parts of the country that are now using a similar approach. International interest in this initiative has resulted in presentations to clinicians and decision-makers in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa

The authors of the Journal of Oncology Practice article, entitled Closing the Quality Loop: Facilitating Improvement in Oncology Practice Through Timely Access to Clinical Performance Indicators, looked at the pathology reporting project and concluded that “high-quality, complete cancer pathology reports are important not only for contemporary oncological practice, but also for secondary users of pathological information including tumor registries, health planners, epidemiologists, and others involved in quality-improvement activities and research.”

The project was initiated by Cancer Care Ontario and supported by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer through the National Staging Initiative, which supported a similar implementation in New Brunswick. Based on the success of those two initial provincial projects, the Partnership is expanding implementation of electronic synoptic pathology reporting efforts in an additional five provinces through the Electronic Synoptic Pathology Reporting Initiative.

“Ontario’s Pathology Reporting Project is a prime example of using data to drive quality and system improvement,” said Dr. Demo Divaris, Cancer Care Ontario’s Clinical Lead for Pathology and Reporting Standards. “Now other specialists and other jurisdictions can look to this work as an inspiration for implementing new synoptic reports and health-care technologies to advance patient outcomes.”

Find out more:

  • Visit cancerview.ca for more information on the synoptic reporting initiatives.