Technology is here to stay, COVID, or non-COVID! Unlike a communicable and non-communicable disease, people with cancer seek care from places that are away from their home towns especially those who are from Tier-II and III cities, they travel to metros for high-end services. Even earlier once treatment was done, patients use to keep in touch with their physicians, over phone, emails, etc.
Now COVID-19 has only catalyzed this process and helped to streamline this method to a greater extent. Now doctors and patients are more open to using technology, document discussion, and have given this unstructured process a structure to be proud of. Timely guidelines from the government have helped to alleviate apprehensions and answered doubts in our minds about safety and legal issues.
We are nowhere near the end of this pandemic and it is not in anybody guess how long it would take to go back to our old routine. We have to learn to live with this disease for at least the next few more months.
Cancer treatment cannot be stopped if delayed treatable cancers will advance and become more difficult to treat and it only increases suffering and decreases the quality of life. Hence we should not shy away from using technology, reach out to doctors, and seek their advice in-person or online so that they can help patients before it is too late.
From a technology perspective, enabling tools like video consultations that are secure and easy to use have played a significant role in helping patients connect with their clinicians remotely, thereby, ensuring a continuum of medical advice. Additionally, there has been a significant increase in contactless and touch less pharmacy and lab orders, collection/delivery methods, payment models, etc.
This has reduced in-person visits and unnecessary exposure both for patients and care providers, especially, in times such as the current COVID-19 pandemic where social distancing and reduced exposure are paramount while continuing care. Technology adoption has dramatically increased and there has been a fundamental cultural shift, which will be the new normal. This cultural shift will also enable more outreach through technology and hence, the providers will be able to reach out to a wider population.
Future forward, building on this cultural shift, advancements in technologies such as the public cloud platforms, connected devices/IoT, 5G, remote monitoring, and AR/VR will fast track the ability to provide care from anywhere to anywhere at any time. Remote monitoring and IoT platforms enable a continuous 24×7 watch on health and treatment parameters on individual patients enabling timely intervention and higher patient outcomes. IoT is also playing a key role in the personally managed health and wellness aspects whereby the focus is shifting toward predictive health through analytics and insights.
Today, we see technologies such as EMRs that are built on public cloud platforms providing much higher levels of security, data compliance, and yet, at the same time, be accessible through the internet. Block chain technologies will enable EMRs to be accessed securely by multiple providers based on the patient’s desire and consent, enabling patients to get in the driver’s seat with regards to managing their health and treatments.
There is a tremendous recognition of the fact that technology-enabled healthcare or cancer care will be the new normal. This combined with the pace of introduction of new regulations and governmental policies that promote the use of technology in healthcare will spur innovative provider models. There is a fundamental paradigm shift toward a much more patient-managed, secure, affordable and accessible health ecosystem with more and more care being provided outside the hospital than inside the hospital and technology will be the primary enabler!