UK-based Careology unveiled Careology Professional, a tool that lets clinicians track and receive real-time alerts for cancer patients’ vital statuses, anti-cancer therapy toxicities, and medication adherence levels remotely. The rollout comes as doctors grapple with how to best deliver care amid the pandemic — placing particular strain on branches of medicine like oncology that rely chiefly on in-person services.
Careology’s release adds to a growing list of digital tools being deployed to supplement cancer care. For instance, researchers found that Microsoft-developed fitness trackers that empower cancer patients to exercise helped reduce adverse health events that could land them in the hospital. And cancer-focused digital therapeutics developer Gaido Health — recently acquired by Biofourmis — is helping predict cancer patients’ outcomes through its tool that fuses remote monitoring, patient surveys, and analytics.
The predictive platform could help healthcare stakeholders cut spending since cancer can be more expensive to treat as it progresses: Gleaning insights into risks and potential outcomes could help care teams take proactive measures and steer more personalized treatments to halt cancer progression.
The pandemic-induced surge in virtual care is now pushing health systems to focus more on teleoncology. For example, just last month, the VA put $4.5 million into its teleoncology program that connects patients to an array of remote services, including genetic testing. And NYU Langone launched a virtual cancer center that links cancer patients with nurses and oncologists.
Health systems would be smart to focus virtual care efforts on oncology, considering the vast number of cancer patients they serve: An estimated 1.9 million US patients will be diagnosed with cancer this year — a number that’s been rising over the past decade, per the CDC.
Tech that aids in cancer care will become more useful in the US as oncologist shortages worsen — but convincing doctors to utilize teleoncology tools may be difficult. Demand for oncology services is expected to soar 42% from 2018 to 2025, but the supply of oncologists will only inch up 28% — creating a nationwide shortage of about 1,500 specialists, per Medscape.
Increasing demand on a thinning pool of oncologists underscores the necessity of tools that streamline care in and out of the hospital — like remote monitoring tech and virtual consultations that extend the reach of doctors across health systems. But one barrier that could stand in the way of successful implementation is simply getting doctors on board with telehealth: In a 2019 Doximity survey conducted pre-pandemic, oncologists were among specialists who showed the least interest in incorporating telemedicine into their jobs.
Further, physicians in older age brackets are less likely to express interest in conducting virtual consultations than their younger counterparts, per Doximity — and oncologists ages 64 years and up outnumber the number of oncologists younger than 40 in the US.
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