Despite the challenges of mass adoption, digital health solutions in oncology can help move to home care

Pharmacy Times spoke with Amila Patel, PharmD, Chief Clinical Officer at Navigating Cancer, to learn about digital health solutions in oncology and what she sees for the future of these solutions.

What are digital health solutions and how are they used?

Amila Patel, PharmD: Yes, so digital health solutions are a really broad term that applies to all kinds of tools that are at the intersection of technology and health. Thus, this general term can indeed apply to tools faced by providers (such as the electronic health record), patient-centered tools, such as a patient portal, and solutions that are also used by clinical research staff. . At Navigating Cancer, our digital healthcare solution includes products used by both providers and patients, and covers a care management platform that is used to document, manage and sort all events that come to patients; patient portal; a remote monitoring application used by patients when in treatment to track their symptoms and information on oral adherence; as well as digital educational materials provided to patients.

How are these decisions particularly influential in the context of oncology?

Amila Patel, PharmD: Yes, so oncology patients are quite complex. They require multiple points of contact during their cancer journey and engage with many different members of the health care team to receive appropriate care. In oncology in particular, we have seen how these tools can help reduce emergency room visits and hospital stays, as well as keep patients in treatment longer. But not all of these points of contact with the care team need to happen through a visit to the clinic or even over the phone. You know, by using these tools, we can really start redirecting patient care to more home care. For example, if the patient has some fatigue, he can report remotely via a mobile device to his care team that he has this slight fatigue and receive immediate examination and intervention from a member of the clinic staff. And they can, you know, go ahead and give them digital instructions on how to deal with this fatigue, all from the comfort of their own home. You know, I really think that over the last 2 years, we’ve all been involved in the ability to be home with our loved ones and how much that means to our well-being. And I don’t think cancer patients are any different.

What are some of the challenges in implementing these solutions on a large scale and why are they not being applied more widely?

Amila Patel, PharmD: Yes, so I think there are several factors that cause this. So first, on the part of the patient, there are a number of barriers that need to be taken into account, including, you know, their technological literacy, whether they have access to broadband, the right devices to use, their language preferences. All these types of socio-demographic factors and social determinants of health certainly play a role in patients’ ability to make these decisions. And then on the part of the provider, you know, the process can be quite resource-intensive and requires significant commitment from clinical staff and clinic management to make these decisions.

Do you have any recommendations on how these solutions can be more widely used and applied?

Amila Patel, PharmD: Yes, I think you know, first of all, the strong collaboration between technology providers and the clinical team as well as the administrative team in these different clinics is really important to ensure that while developing these products that from the beginning of the design and development, we really think about what is best for the patient and best for the clinic staff. In addition, make sure that when these tools are applied, they are not overloaded [for] staff is also very important. And then, you know, finally, I talked about the resource-intensive process. I think that all providers together believe and realize the potential of these types of tools, but this really needs to be combined with cost recovery so that all the care activities they perform and provide for these patients through these platforms are capitalized.

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