Diagnosing and treating cancer is a complex affair, often involving many specialists along a patient’s journey. Access to relevant data, while instrumental, takes time and can be cumbersome. While cancer rates continue to rise, a recent Lancet study predicts a shortage of oncologists. In the face of such challenges, how can healthcare providers improve cancer care? The answer lies in new age oncology made possible by innovative digital solutions
In a disease like cancer, every decision is life-changing. Yet, sifting through a staggering amount of data – from patient history and biomarkers to tumour information, pathology reports and electronic records – can be challenging. Doctors need all kinds of clinical data to make treatment decisions with confidence. Patients, on the other hand, want reassurance that the decisions made, give them a fighting chance against cancer.
Tumour board discussions represent some of the most important minutes in a cancer patient’s life. However, since tumour board participants have demanding caseloads, investigating all aspects related to each individual patient’s treatment, all within a limited time, is not without challenges.
Running a tumour board is both time and labour intensive – coordinating meetings and collating patients’ medical information from various departments and sources take considerable effort. Although multidisciplinary team meetings are commonly acknowledged as the gold standard, in recent years, digital tools have emerged as a critical factor in the cancer care equation.
The emergence of clinical decision support tools is a game-changer in patient care. They enable easier access to patient information and aggregate relevant patient data from disparate sources in one place. New clinical decision support solutions allow experts from various disciplines – oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, pathologists, nurse navigators and social care workers – to make more confident and timely decisions on the best possible treatment plans for their patients.
The use of diagnostic and digital tools enables earlier, individualised interventions that can significantly reduce healthcare costs and effectively use available resources. At present, many countries in Asia Pacific are still below the World Health Organization’s recommendation of one doctor for every 1,000 patients. While advanced countries have adopted innovative digital solutions to deliver personalised care, in emerging markets across Asia, capacity and capability building efforts that can improve healthcare delivery are currently underway.
In this interview, Prof Soo Kee Chee and Dr Omar Chughtai highlight how digital tools are enabling innovative oncology solutions and enhancing health systems in their countries.