Inside Scoop: The Syapse Clinical Abstraction Team

2021/08 7 minutes read

Clinical Abstraction

Forming its Clinical Abstraction Team, Syapse employs more than 50 Certified Tumor Registrars (CTRs) with over 600 years of collective experience. As a remote-first team and company, CTRs live and work around the United States. The Clinical Abstraction team is invaluable in delivering robust, intelligent real-world data.

What is the role of a clinical abstractor at Syapse?

Louise Widmer, Director (PA):  Our clinical abstractors play a key role in contextualizing and gathering data directly from source documents within multi-disciplinary Electronic Health Records (EHRs). These are EHRs found within large community health systems, integrated delivery networks (IDN), etc., which cover a range of care (e.g. primary, specialist, ambulatory, labs, outpatient, etc.). 

Clinical abstractors are responsible for curating a comprehensive patient journey by entering and validating data from multiple sources before putting it into our custom abstraction tool.

Which qualities do you admire most in a clinical abstractor?

Louise Widmer: The focus that the clinical abstractors have is remarkable. A single patient journey can sometimes take an entire day to review, due to the depth of data collected and complexity of care received. The ability to focus on the story and ensure that nothing is missing for the amount of time that this process takes is a superpower in this world of constant distractions.

Another admirable quality of Syapse’s clinical abstractors is curiosity. Curiosity is something that I look for when recruiting new team members because curious people are not only great at abstraction work, but they are also great teammates and lifelong-learners.

Finally, passion for transforming care through a data-driven approach, and insisting on the highest quality data is what makes our team truly special.

How would you describe your work to a friend or family member?

Katie Levie, Clinical Abstractor (WA): I ask if they have ever wondered where cancer statistics come from, or how their doctor knows the risks for developing cancer. It is my job to take out my magnifying glass and search through medical records to compile the information that makes knowledge of those things possible. I have the honor of piecing together patient journeys to grow lifesaving bodies of knowledge on cancer treatment and prevention.

Dana Hess, Clinical Abstractor (FL): I say that I am a data detective diving into medical records found in large community health systems. These are multidisciplinary electronic health records (EHRs) that encompass patient, lab, ambulatory, inpatient data and much more. We research specific data elements and my findings provide an additional data source to generate real world evidence. Together, these pieces support the life sciences that aspire to find better treatments for complex cancers. Our work addresses gaps in care by ensuring cancer patients have access to the best possible medical services.

Kat Martin, Custom Research Abstractor (OH): Along with a team of CTRs, I gather information on a cancer patient's care - beginning at diagnosis - and follow their journey. The goal is to identify how their cancer began, what is unique about their particular cancer and case, and what treatments are working. A large focus is on biomarkersー those little "flags" specific to a person's body or cancer cell that can identify how to treat each patient, based on their specific-type of tumor and its attributes.

What is your favorite part of working at Syapse?

Leti Montalvan, Clinical Abstractor (FL): I love curating the patient's journey. It makes me feel connected to the patients and passionate about my work. When I finish my day, I feel a sense of accomplishment and productivity.

Mary Scheppelmann, Clinical Abstractor 2 (PA): Knowing that I am making a difference.

My favorite part of my day is starting. I am making a difference in real-time with real patients.
- Kat Martin

Trista Weber, Clinical Abstractor 2 (IA): I love the opportunities to interact with my team and having dedicated work time with no distractions or a calendar packed with meetings. I am getting the best of both worlds! Plus, I really enjoy working from home and getting to see my kids' faces every morning!

Katie Levie: I enjoy the beginning the most. My day always starts the same wayーa cup of coffee and a stream of Slack posts from my team. Messages range from ‘good morning’ to ‘how was your weekend’. There are questions about how to code a complicated biomarker assay or determine if an unusual case has one primary cancer or two. What ties all these messages together is a special type of camaraderie — the type of close-knit feeling that makes the word coworker seem too far removed. 

We share laughs, and tears, together. We watch each other grow professionally, but also share the moments that matter most—weddings, parenthood, reaching personal goals. We are a family here. 

Could you discuss some of the key differences associated with abstracting oncology data at Syapse versus a hospital or central cancer registry?

Mary Scheppelmann: Abstracted real-world data is just one piece of the puzzle at Syapse. Abstracted real-world data is combined with other sources (e.g. registry data) to give our partners the best possible picture of the patient journey.

Donna Rose, Clinical Abstractor (RI): Our software is customizable to our needs, so we are able to collect additional fields not typically gathered in a hospital cancer registry, such as new biomarker data. Since we are not required to report our cancer cases to central registries, we can forgo collecting data items that do not fit our needs, and instead focus on collecting the elements of the patient journey that make the most impact on cancer care. 

Dana Hess: At Syapse, we have a real-time view of how the data we collect impacts patient care. We develop insights that have the potential to impact a patient’s care now. Our network partners have specific interests and we are able to customize our research and data points as needed to fit their requests, utilizing clinical abstraction and artificial intelligence.

Kat Martin: At Syapse, we are ‘One Team’ and it is evident in everything we do. There are always opportunities to provide input and share ideas with one another. We are a team of physicians, data engineers, data analysts, cancer registrars, and more—all working side by side. 

Could you describe some of the unique opportunities and challenges you have encountered at Syapse?

Donna Rose: Training in biomarkers has been both a challenge and learning opportunity! My work is focused on lung cancer and understanding how biomarkers impact treatment. I recently was involved with a research project to gather data on the safety profiles of different treatments. This unique opportunity helped me to understand the considerations that go into treatment decisions that physicians make with cancer patients. 

Trista Weber: Syapse “walks the walk and talks the talk” with how they support and take care of their employees. Clinical abstractors bring a lot of value to Syapse’s customers and we are appreciated and recognized for the ways in which we contribute to living our mission.

Leti Montalvan: The positive environment and immense amount of support at Syapse keeps me motivated and excited to work. Everyone is so helpful, compassionate, and understanding. I am able to bring my true self to work, and be valued for who I am.

Mary Scheppelmann: I have learned a lot about the testing that is done on tissues and blood samples. Biomarkers can tell you so much information about the disease process within each individual patient. 

It is extraordinary how biomarkers and targeted therapy are geared toward each patient versus a group of patients with a similar, broad diagnosis.
- Mary Scheppelmann

I work in the acute myeloid leukemia (AML) abstraction pod. Me and my fellow AML abstractors  work closely together and interact frequently (all remotely) to make sure we are on the same page with interpreting the patient journey. Meeting our goal at the end of the month can be a challenge because the length of time varies so much to complete a case in AML— but, at the end of the day, we are achieving our goals as a team and I always feel supported. 

What aspects of your education and career led you here? 

Kat Martin: With over 25 years as an experienced oncology registered nurse, originally pulled into the cancer registry by facility need, Syapse provides an opportunity to make a difference in a unique way, outside of the clinical setting. I am making a difference on the data side that affects the bedside, where my nursing journey began many years ago. 

Leti Montalvan: As a histotechnologist, I had the opportunity to assist physicians with fine needle aspirations and bone marrow biopsies. I collected specimens and helped the patient to feel calm and at ease during the procedure. This work allowed me to feel close to the patient and have a better appreciation for patient care. 

Because I find the patient journey so interesting, I became interested in working behind the scenes with medical records. I feel connected to my work knowing that it is making a difference in each patient's life.

Donna Rose: My first introduction to real-world data was in an article I read, which led to a discussion with a colleague who shared different opportunities for CTRs outside of the hospital settingWhat intrigued me the most about Syapse was the opportunity for specific training and the fresh approach to capturing and using data. Coming to Syapse was absolutely the right move for me, and fits my lifestyle and professional goals.

Trista Weber: I was a Radiation Therapist for almost ten years and I loved helping cancer patients; however, I really wanted to do something which would enable me to spend more time with my kids, grow my career, and  keep me in the oncology field. I feel like I hit the jackpot coming to Syapse!

What is the most interesting thing you have learned while working at Syapse? 

Dana Hess: I’ve learned that you can LOVE what you do and LOVE where you work. Syapse has expertly built a culture where you want to work hard for the team because you are appreciated and you're confident that your work is making a difference.

Mary Scheppelmann: Data mining. I really appreciate the opportunity to listen to other departments and learn how they do their magic to make our data come alive and provide a valuable resource for our customers.

Donna Rose: The most interesting thing would have to be how big a part LinkedIn serves in showcasing the work that is done here at Syapse. I am not a social media person, but I wholeheartedly agree with, and will be participating in, the positive promotion of Syapse via LinkedIn.

Leti Montalvan: I have learned that Syapse is equally interested in my education and well-being as they are in my work productivity. I have access to Udemy with free classes I can take, including stress management or how to use the technology provided to us. We can also utilize Aaptiv and Headspace apps for meditation, proper sleep, and exercise. I recently broke my leg and have found an immense amount of support from managers and coworkers. I am able to use Physera to start my virtual physical therapy to recover from my surgery without having to spend money on physical therapy sessions. 

Which three words would you choose to describe the Clinical Abstraction team?

Louise Widmer, Director:  Intelligent – Diverse - Welcoming

Dana Hess, Clinical Abstractor: Joyful – Motivated - Encouraging

Leti Montalvan, Clinical Abstractor: Compassion - Support – Family

Katie Levie, Clinical Abstractor: Driven - Caring - Innovative