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How electronic patient-reported outcome solutions can help democratize access to cancer care and improve experiences for patients and clinic care teams.
For cancer patients living in a rural community, the associated challenges can be amplified. A new report shows that patients in rural America are less likely to survive the disease than those in urban areas. Cancer patients across America already experience terrible symptoms, a mind-numbing number of appointments, medications and instructions they must remember, conflicting sources of information, and communication challenges. This may be “the norm” for all patients, but patients living in rural communities often experience this at an exponential level.
An example of this situation includes a male patient in his 60s that lived in a small rural town in Tennessee and was battling a rare form of lung cancer which required weekly hospital visits for chemotherapy. After a three-hour drive to one of these visits, he arrived 10 minutes late. The doctor had taken the next patient. He waited for several more hours until the doctor was finally able to see him. Once returning home, some unusual new symptoms surfaced, and he wasn’t sure what to do. Should he call the doctor? Drive back? Ignore the symptoms?
Limited access to care is a reality in rural America for many cancer patients. In fact, Tennessee ranks second in the nation for states with the most rural hospital closures. Rural cancer patients typically spend 66% more time traveling to treatment than those who live in more urban areas.
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All these challenges are interconnected and experiencing change today, thanks to the explosion of data and mobile technology in medicine. Electronic Patient-Reported Outcome (ePRO) tools leveraging this new availability of mobile technology can help create a new channel of communication for patients and care providers - improving access to information and healthcare providers, which can make a difference between life and death for a patient.
We’re in the midst of a technology transition. Sophisticated medical information is no longer limited to the clinic; it’s in the palm of our hands, mobile, and data-powered. ePRO solutions are crossing geographical boundaries and socioeconomic limitations to make cancer care more predictive, proactive, personalized, and preventative. How? By empowering the patient.
ePRO solutions elevate the voice of the patient and empower care teams withâ¯real-timeâ¯patient reported data. It offers clinicians a fuller view of what the patient is experiencing, rather than just what they see (or what the patient remembers) during the appointment. Advanced ePRO solutions can enableâ¯ patients to â¯easily ask questions and discuss symptoms with their care teamâ¯ during treatment, recovery, and post-treatment.
It’s shaping cancer care for a future that is:
Rural Tennessee is already seeing these benefits through the utilization of an ePRO solution at Tennessee Oncology. As one of the nation’s largest community-based cancer care groups, Tennessee Oncology treats more cancer patients than any other group in the state, reaching approximately 25,000 patients per year.
Tennessee is a prime example of the need to democratize access with approximately 22% of its residents residing in a rural setting. The ePRO solution has been deployed at all 32 Tennessee Oncology centers across Tennessee. The benefits are proving monumental for rural patients, but also help patients in urban cities where terrible traffic, understaffed hospitals, and monetary constraints can keep them from visiting and communicating with their care teams consistently.
The democratization of access to healthcare has the potential to transform the patient-provider relationship, giving patients a more empowered and prominent role in their health. ePRO solutions can pave a path towards democratization and provide substantial benefits for patients, providers, researchers, and the healthcare system as a whole.
Jani Ahonala is global head of Life Science Solutions at Varian Medical Systems.