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Engaging cancer patients using existing technology

by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | March 03, 2023
Business Affairs Health IT

Fortunately, this is an area that is receiving much needed attention across the industry with significant investments being made in solutions for empowering providers to efficiently identify and address social determinants of health. The rapid adoption of digital health tools spurred by the pandemic has created tremendous opportunity for rethinking how patients are engaged on the non-medical influences impacting their care. For example, there are emerging technologies being deployed that give patients the opportunity to self-report appointment priorities, health-related social needs, treatment concerns and preferences, prior to their appointments. This approach not only removes the burden of discovery from providers, but it also empowers patients to share more openly and honestly with their care teams about the non-medical factors influencing their care. Patients who may otherwise feel shame or discomfort in speaking directly with their providers on topics such as housing or food security, have a platform to share comfortably and can be directed in real-time to support resources and services available to them. Care teams can likewise be empowered to triage patient problems before they walk through the door, and track and monitor patient data at an aggregate level as more patients engage with the technology.

HCB News: A lot of cancer rates are on the rise, and everyone knows screening is the best form of prevention. How can we improve cancer screenings?
AS: Education is essential to improving cancer screening rates, which may seem remedial to a certain degree, but it is a frequently overlooked step. We should not assume that patients understand why cancer screening is so important. It is imperative that we meet individuals where they are and normalize cancer screening as an essential part of care. We need to help destigmatize cancer screenings and help patients understand that many cancers can be prevented or treated successfully if caught early enough.
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Thankfully we’re seeing more resources being employed towards this effort. The NFL’s Crucial Catch initiative is a great example. The NFL in partnership with the American Cancer Society is using their platform to help individuals better understand early detection and ways to reduce cancer risk – such as cancer screenings.

HCB News: A lot of this is a health equity and access issue. What steps can be taken to ensure underserved and uninsured patients have access to cancer screenings and care?
AS: The first and most essential step to addressing equity and access in cancer care, is listening to, and understanding the patient. We need to give patients a platform to share comfortably and honestly the unique challenges they face based on the environments they were born, raised, live, or work in. We need to empower them to communicate the social needs inhibiting their ability to achieve their best health. And we need to make it easy.

We need to leverage emerging innovations to help us meet patients where they are and connect them to the community resources that can help. The resources are there, but we need to bridge the gaps in education and access for the patient. Patient-centered technologies that capture the patient-voice and identify the practical social and access challenges they face, will help empower the industry to efficiently and proactively provide support, and successfully advance health equity initiatives.

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