Over the past 50 years, we’ve seen a remarkable transformation in cancer treatment and patient care. However, this incredible progress is not making its way to every patient living with cancer, and deep-rooted disparities in cancer persist.
Everett E. Vokes, M.D.
FASCO, President, American Society of Clinical Oncology
For all patients to benefit from cancer progress, we must continue to focus on innovations that are designed to improve equity for patients in diagnosis, care, and survivorship. Innovation can bring down barriers to access and make cancer care more equitable, convenient, and efficient for patients worldwide. Over the past two years, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve witnessed a rapid adoption of a broad range of digital healthcare activities and services in the U.S. healthcare system. It is my hope that telemedicine is here to stay in oncology, and that continued innovation in delivering remote care will allow patients to access specialists that they otherwise might not be able to.
Digital technologies have the potential to improve patient cancer. Recent research shows a digital monitoring system that allowed patients with cancer to report their symptoms from home led to better symptom control and physical function. When a patient’s symptoms worsened, an electronic alert was sent to care team nurses, and reports showing symptom data over time were available to oncologists during in-person or telehealth visits. Enabling patients to digitally report their symptoms and side effects directly to their cancer care team between visits led to improved communication with the team, better symptom management, and improved quality of life.
We’ve also seen telemedicine approaches expand to cancer research. Until recently, people participating in clinical trials had to complete many research administrative tasks in-person, deterring some from enrolling in research. It is only in the past two years — as a result of COVID-19 — that patients can provide consent and review study information remotely. Adopting digital approaches to cancer research lessens participants’ risks, facilitates monitoring of side effects, and can potentially lower trial costs.
We’re in the midst of a digital transformation in oncology. Let us harness this moment and expand the use of innovative digital technologies with the goal of bringing high-quality, equitable cancer care to all patients.