Patients in rural and remote communities often travel great distances to access cancer services, and in some cases are forced to make treatment decisions based on factors such as the ability to arrange childcare for long periods of time, or the ability to take long periods of time away from work.
Using virtual care and digital health solutions to replace clinic visits, when appropriate, reduces the burden of treatment on patients and caregivers. It makes it more efficient for patients to manage medical appointments and monitor their health, as well as minimizes challenges experienced when accessing care. Virtual clinics can slow the spread of secondary infections for cancer patients by keeping them out of high-risk areas such as waiting rooms. Optimizing care solutions that take advantage of existing infrastructure and IT resources such as home consultations or follow-up can help improve access to the best care.
While historically there have been many perceived barriers to virtual appointments, such as patient privacy and reasonable clinician compensation, the need for social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic introduced more opportunities that may be sustained after the current crisis. However, adequate internet access continues to prove challenging in some of the most remote areas.
Digital health solutions – helping patients in real time
Digital health solutions are the provision of evidence-based therapeutic interventions to patients, through direct, patient-facing software applications designed to help patients and their care team monitor and manage symptoms, support prevention strategies and more.
These digital solutions can be connected to sensors for remote monitoring of symptoms and biometric data, or simply act as a platform for the collection of electronic Patient Reported Outcomes (ePROs). This helps to facilitate symptom management by the patients themselves, with or without real-time decision support.
Digital supportive care solutions present an opportunity to address unmet needs in the prevention or management of adverse events in patients with cancer including:
- Increased communication between patients, providers and their communities
- Education of patients and caregivers
- Integration of standard clinical assessments with ePROs measured during routine clinical practice
- Help for patients in monitoring their respective conditions
- Improved patient empowerment and self-management
- Prospective evaluations of supportive care interventions and real-world efficiency of care for cancer patients.
Digital solutions are associated with improved patient experience, increased adherence and treatment efficacy, and avoidance of unnecessary hospitalizations.1
- Aapro M, Bossi P, Dasari A, et al. Digital health for optimal supportive care in oncology: benefits, limits, and future perspectives. Support Care Cancer. 2020;28(10):4589-4612.