Sometimes innovation needs a lucky spark. For CodeX, this was a chance encounter between former colleagues, Dr. Jay Schnitzer and Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, on an airplane in 2017. Schnitzer and Bertagnolli had trained together as surgeons 30+ years before at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Bertagnolli had gone on to be a cancer surgeon at Brigham and Women’s and was leading the Alliance for Cancer Trials in Oncology. She was passionate about the many opportunities for improvement in the efficacy, range, and inclusivity of cancer trials. Specifically, she was convinced that the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) could be a powerful tool in addressing all three areas.
Dr. Schnitzer, meanwhile, was leading a diverse research agenda – including a focus on healthcare – as the Chief Technology Officer at MITRE. At the time, the organization was on a quest to drive data standards for EHR systems that could be aggregated and searched to enable both better treatments and new therapies.
As the conversation progressed and the synergies became obvious, the two began jotting ideas for a standard health record on the back of a napkin. They had both been circling around one of the most fundamental root cause problems in healthcare and, in their conversation, they knew they had something. This spontaneous in-flight brainstorming session led to a lasting partnership and the creation of mCODE – minimal Common Oncology Data Elements. Those ideas on the back of a napkin have become a robust community of stakeholders from across healthcare creating clinical specialty standards that are transforming cancer patient care and research.
But from the beginning, their vision was even more ambitious. Drs. Bertagnolli and Schnitzer and their other partners plan to use data standards to achieve a Learning Health System in which each interaction between a patient and clinician results in high-quality data owned by the patients themselves and usable by all future care givers and researchers. The spark that started with that chance encounter between two old friends now holds the promise to revolutionize healthcare data, lower costs, optimize trials, and dramatically improve health outcomes.