Each year, roughly 1.75 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer. This growing population represents an unprecedented level of empowerment when it comes to cancer care. Patients today want solutions that makes sense for their specific circumstances, and they want health care providers and quality treatments that meet their needs.1
Today’s cancer patients want information, and so do their loved ones
More than ever, patients have access to reliable information about their conditions. This extends to patients' friends and family.
According to Dr. Brian Bolwell, chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute, “There are many very good websites that patients and family members can use to educate themselves. There are also some sites that provide less-than-useful information, but that is true of any subject you might research on the Internet.”
With this information, cancer patients are now asking thoughtful, poignant questions not only about their diagnosis but also about their treatment plan. And their network of support—loved ones, coworkers, and others—want answers to many of those same questions. "Often, family members or other loved ones have their own questions, based on information they’ve found online," says Dr. Bolwell. “Oncology is advancing rapidly and that translates into increasingly complicated treatments. Well-informed patients and their family members will know how to ask questions about their specific type of cancer, their available treatment options, and any short-term and long-term effects they may have.”2
Information technology (IT), patients and providers—partners in targeted, comprehensive cancer care
Cancer treatment is a complex series of interactions between many different participants including, patients, their doctors, their insurance company, their support network, and their cancer treatment center. As a result, technology now plays a key role in bridging gaps in understanding, especially for patients who are looking for solutions specific to their unique situations.
- Screening for colorectal cancer has been shown to dramatically increase survivorship, but only about two-thirds of Americans stay current on their screenings. A new study by the National Cancer Institute shows that patients who install a screening app, which provides reminders for checkups as well as key colorectal cancer information, were twice as likely to go to their doctor and stay current with their screenings.4
- For patients who have gone through cancer treatment, and for the loved ones who support them, The American Cancer Society has a suite of patient-centric tools and resources—all digital—to help chart a data- and results-driven course through survivorship. These are free resources, available to all patients for viewing or downloading. This kind of quality research and guidance was once available only directly from health care providers or in printed form. Now, it's an online search and a click or two away.5
Connected health, also called telemedicine or telehealth or mobile health, uses IT and other mobile technology to connect providers to their patients through a variety of electronic media and devices, including videoconferencing (Skyping, FaceTime, etc.), email, and text messaging. Using tablets, computers and smartphones enriches the traditional cancer patient-provider relationship at every stage of treatment. Connected health also helps oncologists consult remotely with specialists to help in their assessments and diagnoses. For cancer patients, connected health can expand access to care, help provide real-time updates of side effects and outcomes, and even improve overall support and quality of life.6
Empowering patients with IT as part of their treatment and recovery is at the heart of patient-centric cancer care. It helps patients to make the best possible health care decisions for themselves in a simple, intuitive way. It allows patients to be more informed than ever, allowing them to ask intelligent questions and to seek out thoughtful, situation-specific answers from their providers. And it creates an ecosystem of engagement and inquiry, in which patients and providers use IT to help break down traditional barriers and work together to find the best possible solution for each patient's unique set of circumstances.
- "Cancer Statistics." https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/understanding/statistics. Accessed September 7, 2018.
- "New Generation of Cancer Care Consumers Drives Practice Changes." https://consultqd.clevelandclinic.org/new-generation-of-cancer-care-consumers-drives-practice-changes/. Accessed September 5, 2018.
- "Patient-Centered Care." https://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/find-support/support-topics/patient-centered-care. Accessed September 5, 2018.
- "Interactive App Improves Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates." https://www.cancer.gov/news-events/cancer-currents-blog/2018/colorectal-cancer-screening-app-improves-rates. Accessed September 5, 2018.
- "Tools for Cancer Survivors." https://www.cancer.org/health-care-professionals/national-cancer-survivorship-resource-center/tools-for-cancer-survivors-and-caregivers.html. Accessed September 5, 2018.