Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Concurrent Abstracting in a Time of Change

By Laura Vondenhuevel, BS, RHIT, CTR
There are so many new things coming at the cancer registry profession in 2018. In my last blog post preparing cancer registry professionals for these changes, I talked about NAACCR’s website for 2018 Implementation Information and how it is a great resource to help us keep up with everything.
Now that we are at the beginning of the age of concurrent abstracting in the cancer registry, some of us are starting to get a little worried. Sure we’ve had the AJCC 8th edition for a year now, but as of this blog posting the new cancer registry coding manual will not be available until November or December of 2017. How long might it take our cancer registry software vendors from the time of the manual’s release to update their software to reflect those changes? The not knowing can be enough to cause angst amongst even the most flexible of cancer registrars.
I’m a big proponent of the “don’t worry about what you can’t control” approach to life. So I like to plan for what I CAN control. I’ve learned a lot since we cancer registrars were faced with our last big change in 2010 and I’ve adapted these lessons to help me stay on top of my concurrent abstracting amidst the changes coming in 2018:
Read Those Manuals | As soon as the manuals become available, read them and become acquainted with any potential data collection issues you foresee.
Check in with Your Software Vendor | After the manuals are released, check in with your software vendor for their implementation plan and timetable.
Check in with Your State Registry | Pay attention to emails or newsletters from your state’s central registry so you can be ready with 2018 cases when your registry is ready to accept them.
Text, Text, Text | If there is a data element that is not in your registry software yet, decide on a standardized location where your team will text the pertinent information as they abstract the case.
User Defined Fields are Your Friend | Create a user defined field for 2018 cases to flag them for easy retrieval later and define these for your team in a central location.
Clearly Define Your Process | Document what your concurrent abstracting process is and place it in a central location for your entire team to reference.
Example: Complete the abstract with the information available at two months from date of first contact, the state flag is set to “not ready,” and select the appropriate 2018 Case UDF option.
Detailed notes and appropriate codes are used for anticipated treatments. Text the information for new 2018 data elements in the “comments” text box.
Cases will be returned to the abstractor at six months to add any additional treatment information and marked as “ready to submit."
Cases are submitted to the state cancer registry when they are ready to receive 2018 cases.

Keep your Hospital Partners Informed | If a change will effect data requests or reports you run on a regular basis, let the administrators or clinicians you work with know in advance.
Most Importantly – Communicate | Watch for 2018 implementation updates from standard setters, software vendors and your state cancer registry. Make sure to communicate with your team regarding any changes to processes you have defined.
Change is coming. There is no doubt our concurrent abstracting processes will be effected, so it’s always best to be as prepared as possible.
What are you doing to stay on top of your concurrent abstracting amidst the changes coming in 2018? 
This article was originally featured on the CHAMPS Oncology Outlook blog on October 11, 2017 and reprinted with permission.

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