Over the last decade, technology has driven significant changes in cancer care. Most notable is the growing adoption of specialized informatics software tailored for managing oncology scheduling and treatments. These intelligent tools gather, store, and analyze cancer-related data, providing valuable support for clinical decision-making and enhancing operational efficiency.

Worldwide, the integration of oncology informatics systems fosters connectivity among treatment centers, particularly benefiting patients in remote areas by enhancing treatment through efficiency and quality care. Using informatics also facilitates the pooling of diverse datasets and expertise, ensuring that patients, regardless of their location, have continuous access to the latest breakthroughs in cancer support and treatment.

The increasing global adoption of oncology-specific informatics systems represents a significant step toward realizing more effective, accessible, and patient-centric cancer treatments.[1] This shift holds promise for the future of oncology, supporting improved outcomes and a more interconnected approach to addressing the complexities of cancer care.

Streamlining Workflows With Advanced Informatics
The benefits of a more adaptable, connected approach to care delivery were particularly notable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinicians equipped with customized questionnaires created by advanced software systems were able to streamline operations and expedite treatment without compromising accuracy or efficiency. Today, the need for customization extends beyond the pandemic response. Clinics across the world are eager to incorporate tools to help provide value-based healthcare while prioritizing patient-centered practices.

A recent study published by the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that using digital tools helped achieve better outcomes, including increased survival rates and decreased treatment costs. Additionally, the research highlighted that employing oncology informatics software led to better communication and collaboration between care team members and increased patient satisfaction. [2]

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Due to the complex and multidisciplinary nature of cancer care today, close coordination between oncology teams is essential to minimize workflow-related bottlenecks, delays in treatment decision-making, and delays in treatment implementation. A study by the University of Mississippi Medical Center highlighted the efficacy of advanced patient management systems, coupled with factors such as accountability, motivation, and leadership, in significantly improving patient workflow efficiency and reducing the radiation therapy package time (RTTP) by an average of 22.9 days.[3]

There are several aspects that contribute to lowering RTTP. Implementing automated patient management systems helps visualize and track patient progress throughout the treatment workflow, ensuring that patients receive timely treatment. Informatics also streamlines record keeping through the standardization of data formats, making it easier to find and retrieve information needed to move treatment forward. This process not only boosts the efficiency of care delivery but also minimizes mistakes. Advanced systems are equipped with tools that collect cancer-specific data, presenting it on convenient dashboards for faster review processes. Such data can maximize operational efficiency, help develop new workflows over time by providing at-a-glance views of performance patterns, and ultimately accelerate time to treatment.

Empowering Global Cancer Care Through Advanced Informatics
Accessing timely and comprehensive cancer care remains a challenge for individuals worldwide. To address this issue, healthcare systems are exploring innovative solutions, including the widespread adoption of oncology informatics software. By leveraging these advanced technologies, healthcare providers can optimize processes and enhance communication across geographically diverse healthcare systems, ultimately improving cancer care outcomes on a global scale.

In considering oncology informatics from a worldwide perspective, it is crucial to acknowledge the diverse patient needs and healthcare settings across the globe. While platforms cater to broader international standards, customization is crucial to address specific regional or departmental requirements. Language barriers and varying healthcare environments may necessitate tailored solutions to ensure seamless integration and optimal utilization of informatics platforms.

One of the primary benefits of integrating informatics software into cancer care is the ability to reduce delays in treatment initiation, as minimizing system-level delays to treatment could improve survival outcomes for cancer patients.[4] By streamlining record-sharing processes and facilitating seamless communication, an oncology-specific platform empowers healthcare providers to deliver prompt and personalized care to patients, irrespective of geographical location. Additionally, cloud-based informatics platforms foster collaboration among healthcare professionals, allowing for the exchange of best practices and expertise across borders.

Furthermore, informatics systems enable healthcare facilities to harness the power of data analytics and artificial intelligence. By analyzing large real-time datasets, providers can identify trends, predict patient outcomes, and tailor treatment approaches to individual needs. This data-driven approach not only improves the efficacy of cancer care but also facilitates research and innovation in the field.

In the era of global healthcare, the adoption of oncology informatics is crucial for overcoming systemic challenges and advancing cancer care worldwide. By embracing these technologies, healthcare systems can enhance accessibility, efficiency, and collaboration, ultimately improving outcomes for cancer patients on a global scale.

Improving Outcomes Through ePROs
Integrating oncology informatics software can streamline many administrative tasks and help sort data, but at its core, the goal is to use data to provide patient-centric care. Digital symptom management through electronic patient-reported outcomes (ePROs) can improve patients’ overall survival and quality of life.[5] Systems that support personalized digital patient monitoring are becoming an important part of clinical research and routine care for a growing number of patients globally.

There is still limited knowledge about adverse events when treating patients with cancer immunotherapies. Advanced informatics systems equipped with a means of ePRO collection could allow leading centers to better understand and manage the toxicities of Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors and CAR T Cell therapies.[6]

Digital symptom management and ePROs pave the way for:

  • Continuous, secure collection of patient-reported data for timely interventions and treatment adjustments
  • Patient engagement in reporting symptoms, fostering active participation in care, and improving treatment adherence
  • Tailored treatment plans and personalized feedback based on real-time data
  • Proactive symptom management that alleviates treatment-related side effects
  • Aggregated data which gives insight into global patterns, treatment effectiveness, and research priorities

Clinics in countries across the globe are already using oncology informatics to manage and collect data and streamline operations. In the future, we will see access to intelligent oncology-specific informatics platforms continue to expand, offering tools to streamline clinic intake and enabling efficient data integration, analysis, and knowledge-sharing. As technology continues to evolve, the primary focus remains steadfast on addressing the needs of patients. Informatics acts as a conduit for continuously innovating and provides a perspective that unveils new methods for applying data and digital resources, with a persistent focus on enhancing the lives of people with cancer worldwide.

References
[1] Moten A, Schafer D, Farmer P, Kim J, Ferrari M. Redefining global health priorities: Improving cancer care in developing settings. Journal of Global Health. 2014;4(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.7189/jogh.04.010304
[2] Patel S, Van De Keere I, Goldsack J, Rollison DE, Robinson E. Advancing digital health innovation in oncology to improve the lives of cancer patients. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2022;40(16_suppl):e13609-e13609. [Article]
[3] Duggar, W., et al. (2022) Strategic reduction of package time in head and neck cancer, Advances in Radiation Oncology. 2022. [Article]
[4] Hanna TP, King WD, Thibodeau S, et al. Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2020;371(371). [Article]
[5] Iivanainen, S., Ravichandra, R., Jekunen, A. et al. ePRO symptom follow-up of colorectal cancer patients receiving oxaliplatin-based adjuvant chemotherapy is feasible and enhances the quality of patient care: a prospective multicenter study. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 149, 6875–6882 (2023). [Article]
[6] Iivanainen, S., Alanko, T., Peltola, K. et al. ePROs in the follow-up of cancer patients treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors: a retrospective study. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol145, 765–774 (2019). [Article]

Featured image courtesy © 2023 – 2024 John Schnobrich / Unsplash. Used with permission.

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Dra. María Dolores de la Mata Moya, MD, MPH, PhD, a distinguished Radiation-Oncology specialist with over 20 years of experience, currently serves at Centro Médico ABC, Mexico City. She trained as a surgeon at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and specialized in medical oncology and radiotherapy at the HGU Gregorio Marañón (Madrid, Spain). She completed her doctorate training in Radio-Oncology at the Complutense University of Madrid. From 2003-2008, Dra. María Dolores de la Mata Moya worked in the private sector in Madrid, Spain, with the first Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) treatments at the MD Anderson International Spain Hospital. After relocating to Mexico, she worked at the Mexican Cancer Institute for two years. Dra. María Dolores de la Mata Moya’s approach to cancer treatment is deeply rooted in leveraging technological advancements, particularly in oncology informatics. By utilizing Elekta's oncology-informatics platform, she leverages technology to optimize treatment planning and improve patient care outcomes. Her passion for research and education is evident through her extensive body of work, which includes numerous publications, contributions to academic books, participation in national consensuses, and active involvement in research groups both nationally and internationally. Dra. María Dolores de la Mata Moya’s dedication to innovation and excellence in the field of oncology not only enhances the quality of care for her patients but also contributes significantly to the broader medical community's understanding and treatment of cancer.