After taking home the Digital Innovation of the Year award at this year’s Health Tech World Awards, Careology CEO Paul Landau shares his thoughts on the future of cancer care, the role of digital and where Careology will fit into a changing healthcare landscape.
The NHS is set to miss its cancer backlog target for the third year, according to NHS England plans seen by the Health Service Journal earlier this year.
As cancer waiting lists continue to soar and the health service faces wider challenges around funding and workforce shortages, digital solutions are coming to the forefront as the solution to boosting efficiency, saving costs and ultimately saving lives.
Careology is a front-runner in the digital health space, with a suite of apps that are disrupting traditional models of cancer care.
The platform consists of two main technology elements.
For patients and caregivers, the primary tool is the Careology app which allows users to track their symptoms, side effects, medications and treatment progress.
On the clinical side, healthcare professionals have access to real-time data that helps them monitor patients remotely and identify early warning signs before it’s too late.
In an interview with Health Tech World, Paul Landau, CEO of Careology, delves into gaps in cancer care, the development of the platform and the role of digital in transforming cancer care.
With the potential to address capacity constraints, improve operational efficiency and enhance patient experiences, digital solutions like Careology are paving the way for a new era of cancer care that supports patients in a home setting.
Health Tech World: How did you first get involved in the healthcare space and what inspired you to launch Careology?
Paul Landau: Prior to starting Careology, I used to run a company called FitBug, which was early in the wearable technology space which we all know and take for granted today.
In 2019, my wife went through treatment for blood cancer.
It was through that experience of supporting her through those two pretty gruelling phases of treatment that I really saw firsthand the huge gap in cancer care and how underserved the space has been from a digital perspective.
HTW: What insights did you get into the cancer care landscape through this experience?
Landau: What I really identified quite early on was that cancer is the inverse of most other health conditions.
Patients go to hospital when they’re well and they go home to be sick. Treatment is timed so that your body is strong enough and recovered well enough to be able to tolerate the next cycle of treatment.
But it’s actually at home where you have to face all of the harsh side effects and toxicities.
Linked to that, if a clinician has a patient at home who is facing potentially life-threatening complications caused by cancer treatment and they don’t act on it as quickly as they can, things can go pear-shaped very quickly.
In worst-case scenarios, people will pass away due to things like sepsis that could have been caught early but was allowed to become more advanced.
I saw the opportunity to build a platform that could better equip and support patients when they’re at home.
HTW: How do clinicians benefit from the platform?
Landau: Clinicians [are] always having to work reactively and only hear about things when they have become more advanced.
The idea was to help clinical teams identify issues as early as possible so they could work proactively, nip things in the bud and ensure that things don’t become more advanced.
This allows them to do their job better and keeps people out of hospital as much as possible.
HTW: How does the platform facilitate this support network between clinicians, patients and family and friends?
Landau: Through the app, patients can invite their family and friends to join their network.
This network allows caregivers to stay informed about the patient’s well-being and receive alerts if any issues arise.
That’s really important because playing the role of caregiver can become all-consuming.
You’re obviously incredibly worried about someone that you really care about.
You want to make sure that they are safe and doing the right things, but at the same time, you probably still have to go to work or look after the kids.
From the clinical perspective, the platform includes a piece of technology called Careology Professional, used predominantly by hospital teams.
It allows teams to work with insights and data that they’ve never had before, allowing them to work proactively and intervene earlier if there are issues.
HTW: It sounds like this is taking away some of the burden on patients to recall how their condition has been at home.
Landau: If I’m a consultant, I might get together with you before each cycle of chemotherapy to see how we’re getting on.
Now, using technology, I can pull up all your details when you’re sitting in the waiting room.
I can understand exactly how you’ve been since I last saw you, what issues you’ve faced, how effectively you’re taking your medications and what side effects you’ve had.
Careology helps me to really understand how my patients have been beyond the four walls of the hospital.
HTW: How does Careology differentiate itself from other digital cancer care tools?
Landau: One thing is the richness of the product.
We probably have the richest list of features available in the marketplace today. That’s actually been independently validated through a white paper that came out at the end of last year.
But it’s not just about how many features we have.
We also spent a huge amount of time really getting under the skin of the needs of those users.
Very early on, our customers were telling us that they could see what we understood the needs of different group.
I think that came from personal experience.
HTW: Can you tell us more about how this firsthand experience influenced the development of the Careology platform?
It’s been really important.
As a non-clinician, you can understand more of the human impacts of those problems. The day-to-day things that patients and their families face.
Right from the outset, we’ve kept the patient front of mind when it comes to how we build everything.
From the app itself through to the branding, we wanted to create an entirely consumerised product for the patient.
But of course, I’m not a clinician, so it was critical to have clinical input throughout the journey.
That human understanding is valuable, but it only gets you to a certain point.
Being able to bring together those different skill sets […] has enabled us to build something that I believe is really special and bridges that gap between consumer and clinican.
HTW: Can you share any insights on how the Careology platform has translated into patient outcomes?
Landau: Over the last few years, we’ve seen really high levels of engagement by both patients and clinical teams across the board.
Around 70 per cent of patients regularly use the technology to track their health, while clinical teams have close to 100 per cent usage.
This high engagement leads to more effective care, as clinicians can intervene earlier when there are issues.
Another big area of focus is looking operationally at how we can use digital technology to build more capacity and get more throughput in the system.
Using technology, clinical teams can ascertain how their patients are when they’re at home, which allows them to work smarter in many ways.
Clinicians can reduce the number of consultations that they have with patients.
HTW: Looking ahead, how do you see cancer care evolving with digital tools?
Landau: I think it’s fair to say that healthcare has not been an early adopter of digital technology. It’s a conservative space. But it is now waking up to the impact that digital can have.
Obviously, COVID was a big accelerant for digital adoption in healthcare. It meant that even the most conservative of clinicians had to embrace digital to some degree.
As consumers, we all use digital technology in every area of our lives. Whether it’s the way we shop or travel or consume entertainment, mobile technology is just how we live.
Just because you become unwell, you don’t suddenly want to go back ten years.
We’re seeing more clinicians understanding the opportunity, with patients expecting digital to be part of their healthcare.
That awareness and desire are manifesting right as we face challenges in cancer care, not just in the UK but globally.
We have huge backlogs that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
We hear about the issues the NHS is facing on an almost-weekly basis. There are not enough nurses, not enough doctors, not enough consultants.
Digital can play a really important role in addressing a lot of these issues.
There’s no magic wand. But if we can use digital to enable patients to do more for themselves at home and avoid unnecessary consultations, we can start to overcome some of these capacity constraints.
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