Cancer incidence is rising and patients are receiving more complex treatments, often for longer.
With no matching increase in staff levels or hospital capacity, creative solutions are urgently needed to meet demand and maintain high levels of patient care.
Though it might seem counterintuitive, one potential solution being explored is providing clinicians with more patient information.
Health Tech World caught up with Dr Toby Basey-Fisher, Founder and CEO of Entia, to find out how amassing patient data from the home could help transform cancer services and patient outcomes.
Given the current challenges in cancer care, how can giving healthcare providers more information help drive efficiency?
The key is to arm healthcare professionals with much more granular data, but in a way that doesn’t burden them by increasing the time needed to assess patients.
It’s about using data to flag up those patients that need attention.
The benefit of this, particularly in cancer treatment where there can be side effects and setbacks, is that you’re saving a lot of downstream effort for the clinicians.
Regular data snapshots provide an early warning of any issues relating to a patient’s treatment.
Through one small interaction with a data dashboard, a clinician may be able to detect and prevent a complication, potentially avoiding a much more resource-intensive and miserable seven-day hospital admission for the patient.
To get this level of data, you need to be assessing patients regularly, and that’s where advances in technology, improved connectivity, and affordability of components, have made home monitoring much more viable.
Patients can now be central to their own care, reporting symptoms and providing readings from the comfort of their homes.
This removes the challenges of using already limited out-patient appointments to monitor patient’s health.
Are people ready for home monitoring and greater self-management in cancer care?
Covid has been a massive game changer.
There was a huge increase in the use of telehealth, which a lot of people embraced and have since persisted with, particularly given the NHS‘s current challenges.
That said, the shift towards self-management and self-testing began decades ago.
In diabetes, self-management is pretty much taken for granted, and even this has moved in a relatively short time from finger-prick testing to small sensors in the arm that provide continuous blood glucose monitoring (CGM).
Technology is an enabler across all generations.
And contrary to what most of us might think, it’s often older people who are quick to adopt the tech and apps that simplify their lives and alleviate some of their day-to-day challenges.
At Entia we always sought to involve patients throughout the developmental stage of new technologies and to shape solutions based on their feedback so that the final products are successful and inclusive enough to meet a broad range of needs.
As datasets grow and evolve, how will this shape the future of cancer treatment?
Cancer care providers already have a wealth of data, and this will continue to develop through remote patient monitoring, becoming a hugely valuable resource that we’ll be able to mine for correlating trends and insights related to treatment outcomes.
We’ll be able to identify how and when complications occur and whether these are linked to any particular symptoms or changes in patient metrics.
It will allow us to predict and hopefully prevent major events, keeping patients on treatments for longer and even improving survival.
If we combine this type of information with developments that are happening in genetic profiling, it gives us enormous potential to tailor cancer therapy to the individual, even looking at personalized dosing of medication to get optimal effects.
Hopefully, this will lead to much more effective and efficient cancer services for patients and significant time and resources savings for healthcare providers.
Data really does have the power to transform healthcare.
What’s next on the horizon that will expand the use of data in healthcare?
Changes in how we capture and process data will allow us to monitor more health parameters and increase the amount of data available.
We’ve seen traditional tech companies capitalising on wearable devices and moving into the medical space, where their products are being used alongside existing evaluations of patients’ health.
These provide a continuous capture of baseline health statistics, including pulse, oxygenation and activity levels and have huge predictive value in recognising when metrics deviate from the norm, i.e. where something may be going wrong, and healthcare intervention is required.
And, using similar technology to CGM, companies are already capturing enzyme levels and other metrics that could help expand this level of monitoring to other disease areas.
In terms of processing, advances in AI and natural language tools will undoubtedly have an impact.
There are large untapped resources of patient data available such as electronic health records, which we need to get better at organising and processing to extract meaningful information.
In the UK, NHS leaders are already discussing how we can capture unstructured information from consultants’ notes and turn these into datasets to yield further insight into patient journeys through the healthcare system.
What is Entia’s role in driving data use to improve cancer care?
We’ve developed a unique solution, Liberty, which combines end-to-end remote monitoring and data analytics.
At the heart of our suite of patient monitoring tools is a laptop-sized blood analyser designed for cancer patients to independently check for haematological toxicity with a simple finger-prick blood sample, all in the comfort of their own home.
The results are shared with healthcare professionals via Entia’s secure cloud network, dashboards, and integration tools.
Combined with symptoms and vitals tracking, we can provide a complete picture of a patient’s health throughout cancer therapy, alerting clinicians to potential complications before they affect quality of life and lead to high-cost, resource intensive hospitalisations.
In the short term, our solutions will enable healthcare providers to manage patients outside of the hospital and deliver more preventative models of care, streamlining clinical services and mitigating the most costly side effects of therapy.
In the longer term, as the volume of patent data increases, we’ll be able to build and analyse unique datasets.
This will expand our insights in cancer treatment and help to more accurately identify and risk stratify patients.
As a result we will be able to better support and augment clinical decision-making and move closer to our vision of a world where we all live longer and better lives because cancer treatments are personalised to us.
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