Pathologists and surgeons are crucial allies in the cancer treatment process—together diagnosing almost all cases of cancer. The two disciplines have long communicated with each other, and with other clinicians, through the use of narrative reports.
However, recent years have heard increased calls for pathologists and surgeons to reconsider the shortcomings of narrative reporting and heed the growing body of evidence supporting synoptic reporting as an alternative.
Synoptic reporting is a structured method of electronic medical documentation, offering several advantages over the narrative method. Many pathologists and surgeons are turning to the synoptic method to increase the accuracy and readability of their reports, the efficiency of their workflows, and the quality of patient care.
Making an accurate diagnoses requires accurate reports, but narrative reporting has not proven to be the most reliable method for producing complete reports. One study found that narrative reporting captured only 46 percent of the surgery data that other clinicians required, while synoptic reporting captured 99 percent . Several more studies have agreed that synoptic methods produce more complete medical reports than the narrative method [2, 3, 4, 5, 6].
The structured nature of synoptic reporting also enables data to be efficiently aggregated and compared, improving cancer surveillance and clinical research.
As new technologies are streamlining many healthcare workflows, narrative reporting is not keeping pace. The transcription process is time consuming, costly and does not always provide healthcare workforces with the information they require.
Synoptic clinical templates can substantially reduce the time required to create and communicate reports on surgical outcomes. One study found that with the use of synoptic operative reporting, breast cancer surgeons were able to submit 90 percent of their reports within a single hour . The average time taken to complete a synoptic report is only six minutes .
Moreover, data suggests that the synoptic method produces reports that are easier to interpret, further saving time and increasing quality of care . Decreased turnaround times are critical in ensuring that healthcare workforces can communicate up-to-date information, deliver timely diagnoses and continue to improve quality of care.
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- Maniarf RL, Hochman DJ, et al. Documentation of quality of care data for colon cancer surgery: comparison of synoptic and dictated operative reports. Annals of Surgical Oncology 2014;21(11):3592–7
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- Branston LK, Greening S, Newcombe RG et al. The implementation of guidelines and computerised forms improves the completeness of cancer pathology reporting. The CROPS project: a randomised controlled trial in pathology. European Journal of Cancer 2002;38(6):764–72
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- Temple WJ, Francis WP, et al. Synoptic surgical reporting for breast cancer surgery: an innovation in knowledge translation. American Journal of Surgery 2010;199(6):770–5.
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