Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, having claimed the lives of more than nine million individuals in 2018 alone. The figure is about half of the total new cancer cases discovered during the same year.
Managing cancer requires the help of specialists, and is usually treated through surgeries and chemotherapies. Cancer treatment will depend on the type, location, and size of the tumor, among other considerations.
As a life-threatening disease impacting various populations worldwide, cancer is chronic, much like other serious diseases. Some are lucky enough to be in remission after a few years. Unfortunately, in some patients, the condition continues to worsen and never goes away.
While not fully capable of ridding the body of cancer, technological advances in the health care sector impact the type of care provided to oncology patients. Here’s a quick guide on digital health solutions and how they’re transforming cancer care:
Virtual Consultations For Cancer Patients
Because of the pandemic, cancer patient visits to doctors’ clinics experienced a downturn. However, this doesn’t mean that they’re not being provided with the medical care they desperately need. On the contrary, telemedicine may have even made it easier for cancer patients to be attended to and monitored by their physicians.
With the help of videoconferencing platforms, a patient is able to communicate with their doctors as if doing face-to-face visits. The great thing about videoconferencing is that medical patients with a wide range of problems, such as those with problems in the central nervous system, can simply go to dickinsonneurosurgery.com to access medical services.
With telemedicine, doctors can discuss these important things to their patients during consultation without being physically present:
- Medical Results: The doctor can explain over the internet the results of laboratory and scan studies, such as blood works, X-rays, and CT scans.
- Cancer Stages: Oncologists can discuss the different stages of cancer with their patients by using online images and videos. This mode of patient education provides a clearer picture of how the cancer cells affect certain body areas, most especially if they metastasize or spread.
- Treatment Options: The oncologist can provide a well-detailed explanation of the different cancer treatment options available, such as radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery. Aside from verbal explanation, the doctor can supply a digital copy of patient results and provide treatment suggestions. Ultimately, these images and recommendations will help the patient and their family to have ample time to think about their best option.
Wearables For Better Cancer Patient Monitoring
As a complementary action to video consultations, a cancer patient, especially those who may not be able to use the computer, can resort to wearing specific devices that can measure their vital signs. These devices usually come in the form of a watch, a wristband, or anything that can be worn by the patient.
These internet-connected wearables can take basic health statistics like heart and pulse rates, as well as blood sugar. The results are then transmitted to the healthcare professional who interprets the results and decides on the appropriate treatment, as necessary.
These devices can likewise measure the efficacy of cancer treatment in patients, as they can monitor minor and major changes to their health.
Here’s how wearables can be used in oncology and cancer management:
- Wellness Coaching: Physical activity monitoring devices via wearable solutions can be helpful in early-stage breast cancer. Wearable technology paves the way to weekly wellness coaching, which can help increase physical activity and improve mental health. This provides patients with guidance on health-related activities that are deemed beneficial for their condition.
- Motivational Tool: Physical activity monitors serve as motivational tools, improving physical activity levels through feedback and self-monitoring. With these wearables, users can monitor their activity levels, celebrate milestones, and encourage them to do more.
- Reminder Systems: Supplement activity monitors with text messages, telephone-based counseling, and other reminder systems to improve cancer patient outcomes. For cancer patients who don’t have a regular treatment partner, this device can remind them when it’s time to take their medications.
- Provide Accurate Measurements: Physical activity monitoring devices provide accurate functional status. Accurate results are crucial in clinical trials and therapies.
Enhancing Cancer Care Access In Rural Areas
Cancer treatment facilities are not always easily accessible, and patients living in rural areas are often at a disadvantage when it comes to availing of cancer care services. In some emergency cases, patients will have to overcome logistical challenges just to get the attention they need.
As a result, some patients would rather choose to skip important appointments such as cancer screenings. This can be detrimental to the management of this serious disease, as cancers are better detected early to increase a patient’s survival or recovery rate.
Through digital means such as telemedicine, patients can access medical care in the comfort of their homes and without facing difficulties on the road.
Telemedicine or telehealth services are digital health solutions that use the internet and different software programs or apps for patient and healthcare professional communication.
Here’s how telemedicine can help enhance cancer care access in rural areas:
- Allow Remote Assessment: Doctors can assess patients through video conferencing, allowing them to check their progress in response to at-home cancer medications. To illustrate, an oncologist in the city can check on the patient even if they’re in a rural area or countryside. Instead of waiting for days or weeks to be seen, cancer patients in rural areas can have access to medical care anytime the physician is available; perhaps even in emergency situations.
- Promote Utmost Convenience: Telemedicine is a convenient solution to the time-consuming process of commuting or driving to the doctor’s clinic or hospital. These activities can be stressful for cancer patients, most especially for end-stage cancer as patients are already very weak.
- Cheaper: Telemedicine consultation usually costs less than physical clinic visits because doctors have reduced overhead costs when it comes to clinic lease and receptionist services. Cancer patients can also save on fuel costs and other expenses incurred when physically visiting the clinic.
Digital Health Records Make Diagnosis More Accurate
Electronic Health Records (EHR) are the electronic or digital versions of patients’ medical history. These are records maintained by the healthcare provider and considered substantial legal documents when used before the court as evidence. An EHR includes administrative clinical data of the patient, including progress notes, diagnosis, and medications administered to the patient.
Transformation due to technological advancements in the health care sector, including the digital recording of patients’ medical records, has helped make cancer diagnosis more accurate. The progress of the patient is monitored properly using EHR. Keeping digital health records avoids healthcare workers from accidentally losing files or pulling out files and forgetting to return them.
Once cancer is suspected, medical doctors may need to discuss and butt heads with specialists in order to come up with an interpretation of the individual’s medical history, cancer screening, and other laboratory results. To share confidential patient information, the doctor would need to forward patient records, with prior authorization, to their colleagues. Accurate information allows the doctors to discuss an appropriate treatment plan and other steps on how to move forward, making cancer management better for everyone.
Health Apps Encourage Self-Care
Once cancer is suspected in an individual, a battery of tests, and potentially surgery, will be recommended. Once confirmed, the patient will have to take additional tests and medications, as well as regular consultations.
Schedules may slip the mind of cancer patients grappling with their condition. As a result, there will be missed doctor’s appointments and prescriptions, leading to a less effective cancer treatment program. With a downloadable medical or cancer care app, a patient will be reminded of their schedule for doctor’s appointments and prescriptions. Patients can also book laboratory test appointments and have quick access to the results.
More Comprehensive Cancer Care Treatment
With all the digital tools and online resources available, healthcare professionals can have a comprehensive overview of the health conditions of a cancer patient—before and during cancer treatment. A patient’s reaction to the treatment plan can be assessed and tweaked as early as possible, an action that wasn’t possible a few years ago.
Thanks to these online tools and chatbots, cancer patients can receive answers to their queries and concerns almost immediately. Additionally, cancer patients will have unrestricted access to
medical care providers who can help improve their mood and overall disposition. This may not help them with their condition, but it can help lift a huge burden off the emotions of cancer patients.
Artificial Intelligence And Data Analytics For Improved Cancer Management Practices
Despite having been discovered for several decades now and infecting millions of individuals globally, there’s still so much to learn about cancer. In this regard, there’s also a need for a more comprehensive data gathering and analytics system.
Various cancer-related apps and artificial intelligence-equipped computer programs make this possible. Information gathered from all automated tools is forwarded to medical researchers and cancer care and treatment facilities. This is all in line with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), which outlines how patient information is supposed to be used and managed by healthcare facilities.
Information culled from these sources can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, medical experts can determine the most common red flags based on age, gender, and nationality. The data can be used to improve the handling of cancer patients based on the severity and the type of cancer versus the several unique characteristics of a certain demographic group.
Simply put, these critical data can drive groundbreaking updates and discoveries about cancer development, new treatment procedures, and better management practices, among other breakthrough developments. These discoveries are also easily shared among peers, thanks to technology.
Medical Computer Carts Or Mobile Workstations
Healthcare professionals are aware that patient care becomes more complex than before. So, healthcare organizations embrace advancements in computer technology, such as medical computer carts, to improve patient care delivery. Medical computer carts or mobile workstations replace traditional nurse’s charts and medical carts. The former is already equipped with medical care must-haves, such as a defibrillator and digital patient records, that are secured by user credentials.
Mobile computer carts allow doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to access relevant patient information at the bedside. Patient data can be uploaded almost instantaneously and shared with other authorized persons in a central computer. Using medical computer carts help healthcare staff and management to come up with better decisions.
Here’s how healthcare medical computer carts transform cancer care:
- Fewer Data Errors: Incorrect patient data could be detrimental. Recording patient data on EHR have less likelihood of error than manual entry. Medical computer carts are placed in strategic locations of the hospital to ensure accurate records.
- Prevent Spreading Infection: Doctors and nurses gather in stationary workstations to talk about treatments and interventions. But these areas can trigger the transmission of infection. Of course, cancer patients feel more assured and confident that the equipment is disinfected. A mobile workstation can be equipped with medical equipment and digital charts. Cleaning and disinfection are also fast and easy without disrupting workflow.
- Improve Patient Engagement: Including cancer patients in the process provides a better experience. Mobile medical cars have well-designed lit-up screens, allowing patients to clearly check medical information. In this way, an oncologist can discuss relevant information in detail, such as treatment options. Mobile medical computer carts allow healthcare professionals and patients to access educational videos that are helpful in educating patients about their condition.
- Real-Time Lab Result Updates: Mobile healthcare computer carts allow the laboratory and scan imaging technicians to send results directly and quickly to the patient files. Because of this straightforward process, the doctor or nurse at the bedside receives a real-time update. Hence, analyzing the information immediately. This speed of results and patient care delivery can save people’s lives.
- Promote Patient Convenience: Mobile workstations are equipped with technology, such as locked medication drawers, defibrillators, and barcode scanners. These things help promote a better patient experience. Nurses and doctors don’t need to go back and forth from the central location to verify information or get something. Also, medications can be ordered straight away from the pharmacy upon prescription using the medical cart, saving patient’s time waiting.
Cancer is one of the most prevalent chronic health conditions in the world. And, as the medical field strives to learn more about cancer detection, development, and proper management, digital health solutions are making a cancer patient’s overall experience better.
Advancements in healthcare applications and systems are likewise making these findings easier to gather, analyze, and share with a wider group of specialists who can help oncology studies and cancer management move forward.
Without access to automated tools in the healthcare industry, cancer patients and medical practitioners will have to face major difficulties in managing this chronic and often fatal disease.