The absence of electronic health records in the physician practice setting poses a long-term challenge to advances in genomic, or personalized, medicine. That was message delivered by David Fenstermacher, chair of the department of biomedical informatics, at Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Fla.

During his HIMSS talk, Fenstermacher discussed the projects underway at Moffitt. They require enormous data samples—measured in terabytes. Moffitt’s data warehouse now includes genetic information on 65,000 patients with profiles of 15,000 unique tissue samples.

The center works with 19 other organizations in the U.S. which contribute patient information. Moffitt’s in the process of revamping its data warehouse, which pulls in clinical records from such sources as EHRs, clinical trials, and cancer registries, Fenstermacher said.

The price of DNA sequencing is dropping, which can spur more samples for researchers to analyze in their quest to understand the underpinnings of cancer and other diseases. But the absence of discrete, digital data in hospitals poses a challenge.

Even EHR systems hold much data that is image-based, such as scanned documents of discharge summaries. “The data is locked into text documents, which is costly to extract,” he said.


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