Power to the patient: A new era in cancer care

Stakeholders in Europe advocate for cancer care transformation through better investment and access to data

By | 2 minute read | May 17, 2019

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Stakeholders across Europe aim to bring more meaning to the term “Patient-centred” healthcare. A recent survey of European Union (EU) citizens found that 70% of respondents want to see more EU action in healthcare, indicating that well-being is a top priority.

Will this movement also drive cancer transformation? Experts gathered to discuss current issues in oncology at POLITICO’s Global Policy Lab: Decoding Cancer, and two key trends emerged: optimising investments and democratising access to knowledge.

Optimising investments in cancer care

The EU Commission is responding to citizen demand for greater focus on healthcare, particularly when it comes to cancer care. The lead candidate for the EU presidency, Manfred Weber, has called for a “masterplan against cancer,” which includes a stronger cancer research mission and more sharing of patients’ data. A good infrastructure – European Association for Cancer Research – is already in place.

But currently only three percent of EU health budgets are spent on prevention, compared with 80 percent spent on treating diseases. To shift more dollars toward prevention, we must view prevention as an investment, not just a cost.

It is critical to invest more in areas such as prevention, wellness, research, and early identification and diagnosis of cancer, alongside the fast tracking of treatment. By doing so, the industry is investing in long-term success and improving opportunities for better outcomes.

Democratising access to knowledge

It’s time to tear down the walls that separate patients from information. Technology can help the healthcare industry further democratise knowledge in compelling ways.

Technology builds trust, for example, when patients understand the evidence behind treatment decisions. Bringing innovative technology to patients fosters transparency. It can open up real discussion between providers and patients, and allow patients to have a voice in their own care.

Specialised high-volume cancer centres have incredible amounts of knowledge that should be used to benefit all cancer patients. Democratising that knowledge using scalable technologies, that are evidence-based, makes it available to more people. Patients need to be informed of treatment choices and their locations, so that they can make informed decisions on travelling for care.

Another example of how technology can democratise knowledge is using advanced technologies such as AI to connect patients to appropriate clinical trials. AI can  help alleviate the frustration of matching patients to appropriate cancer research opportunities.

To sustain momentum toward more patient-centred cancer care, and succeed with cancer care transformation, we must continue to do three things:

  1. Invest in cancer prevention, as well as early detection and diagnosis
  2. Involve patients in all aspects of their care
  3. Make innovative treatments and clinical trial options widely available

It is important to underpin these efforts with transparency. We must continue to build trust around how data will be used to improve care for everyone.