Inadequate digitization causes lagging in Israeli Cancer Registry

Some facilities don’t report their cancer cases at all, even though it is required by law.

July 13, 2017 19:40
2 minute read.
Prostate cancer cells

Cancer cells. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Although data at the National Cancer Registry is supposed to help senior Health Ministry officials set policies and plan facilities and manpower for dealing with malignancies, they are published more than two years late and with incomplete information.

This is because numerous hospitals, health fund clinics and pathology and oncology institutes send data on pieces of paper rather than digitally, and the cancer registry has only 11 employees – statisticians and registrars – who have to do much of the coding and compilation work by hand.

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Some facilities don’t report their cancer cases at all, even though it is required by law, “because there is inadequate enforcement,” said Prof. Lital Keinan Boker, the head of the registry and deputy head of the Israel Center for Disease Control.

The Jerusalem Post learned of this problem when the ministry issued a proud press release boasting of its new “Online Interactive Data System.”

Produced in Hebrew only, the data on cancers – the number-one cause of death in Israel – includes graphic images for presenting statistics on morbidity and mortality.

Users, both health professionals and the lay public, can create relevant charts for themselves. The data includes types of cancers, gender, age, location, year of diagnosis (from 1980 only to 2014), but without English or other languages or the causes of the cancers including smoking.

Keinan Boker, an epidemiologist and public health expert, told the Post that she hoped the site would appear in English in the future so it can be studied by foreigners and local English speakers. “We get a lot of questions about cancer, and this website will answer some of them.”

The registry’s main aim, however, is not for professional epidemiology research or even for informing laymen but to help the ministry regulate, know how many new patients there are and how to cope with them, she explained.

Because not all medical facilities are digitized, the cancer registry received 150,000 bits of documents, too many of them on paper rather than via computers. “It’s a lot of work to process it, code it and check the quality before we release it, so there is a lag. By the end of 2016, we had the data for 2014,” said Keinan Boker, whose office is at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer.

“I would be happy to eliminate the time gap and be updated on cancer data within a year, but for that, everyone has to send us their reports digitally,” she said.

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