Monitoring public health reporting: data tracking in cancer registries

Abdulrahman Jabour, Brian Dixon


Introduction: Timeliness of data availability is a key performance measure in cancer reporting. Previous studies evaluated timeliness of cancer reporting using a single metric, yet this metric obscures the details within each step of the reporting process. To enhance understanding of cancer reporting processes, we measured the timeliness of discrete cancer reporting steps and examined changes in timeliness across a decade.

Methods: We analyzed 76,259 cases of breast, colorectal and lung cancer reported to the Indiana State Cancer Registry between 2001 and 2011. We measured timeliness for three fundamental reporting steps: report completion time, report submission time, and report processing time. Timeliness was measured as the difference, in days, between timestamps recorded in the cancer registry at each step. We further examined the reporting pattern among facilities within each step.

Results: Identifying and gathering details about cases (report completion) accounts for the largest proportion of time during the cancer reporting process. Although submission time accounts for a lesser proportion of time, there is wide variation among facilities. One-seventh (7 out of 49) facilities accounted for 28.4% of the total cases reported, all of which took more than 100 days to submit the completed cases to the registry.

Conclusions: Measuring timeliness of the individual steps in reporting processes can enable cancer registry programs to target individual facilities as well as tasks that could be improved to reduce overall case reporting times. Process improvement could strengthen cancer control programs and enable more rapid discovery in cancer research.

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Online Journal of Public Health Informatics * ISSN 1947-2579 *