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New digital innovation to transform cancer care

Cancer doesn’t end the moment treatment does. Patients might go into remission, relapse, or need further treatment. Those who survive often experience problems later in life. While our current health system looks at whole-of-life care, there is concern that it does not detect every patient’s needs in a timely manner.

Now, a groundbreaking new system looks to change this.

Known as PROMPT-Care (Patient-Reported Outcome Measures for Personalised Treatment and Care), the project has been successfully trialed in NSW.

PROMPT-Care is a digital feedback system that allows patients to communicate their symptoms and needs to their clinical team in real time. It is available to cancer patients of all ages and stages, and to patients currently receiving treatment as well as survivors who might be many years post-treatment.

“That’s something that distinguishes our program from others. We haven’t focused on a specific group, we’ve made it available across the board” says Professor Afaf Girgis, Project lead of the Maridulu Budyari Gumal Cancer Clinical Academic Group.

How PROMPT-Care works

Every month, patients digitally record any physical or psychosocial issues they’re facing, and a summary of these issues is received by their healthcare team in real-time. Patients then receive feedback on self-management tools and resources they can use to support their cancer journey.   

The system works across the board and allows clinical care teams to see how patients are doing over time.

Catch issues before they reach crisis

Oncologists can access the report the minute a patient hits send. If a patient has concerning responses, the care team also receives an email that alerts them to check that patient’s report. This allows members of the care team to identify and address symptoms much earlier than the current system allows.

This means healthcare teams can catch issues that come up for patients long after treatment has ended. These are patients who may have been doing well and are no longer on the radar of GPs and hospitals.

A digital feedback tool ensures no one falls through the gaps and issues are dealt with before they reach crisis point.

Empower patients to be in control

Undergoing cancer treatment can make patients feel like their recovery is out of their hands. PROMPT-Care empowers patients to help themselves.

Based on each patient’s responses in the report, they are sent information that’s relevant to their issues. This ensures patients are more informed about problems they could address themselves. It also helps allay concerns and set expectations along the way. 

Quality information versus Google results

There is a sea of information available to cancer patients at the click of a search bar. This can overwhelm and misinform patients.

Receiving information from a dedicated care team is reassuring for patients. They know it comes professionally recommended and screened, meaning patients only receive highly relevant, quality information.

Patients more likely to finish treatment

Empowering patients to report on their wellbeing has several benefits. Patients are more comfortable discussing their issues, because they believe their needs are being met. “The platform allows patients to discuss certain emotional or psychosocial issues that they may not normally raise with their healthcare provider, either because they think the provider is too busy, or that the issues are less important than their cancer treatment,” says Professor Girgis.

The PROMPT-Care system can impact how patients receive treatments. If specific symptoms can be identified and addressed earlier, patients are more likely to complete cancer treatments, and this leads to better survival rates.

Cost-efficient cancer care

As new cancer cases rise and cancer-related deaths decrease, there is a growing population of cancer patients at very different stages of their journey, who require some level of follow-up to ensure they are doing well. In Australia, our current system is not equipped to cope with this level of follow-up if it continues to be done by specialists.

A digital feedback system quickly distinguishes those with urgent issues from patients who are thriving. This takes pressure off the health system in two ways. It allows healthcare teams to focus on patients who need early attention before they require critical, costly care. At the same time, it relieves healthcare resources of unnecessary appointments for patients who are doing perfectly well. 

The first, fully integrated eHealth system

PROMPT-Care allows oncologists to assess patient reports immediately. It elevates patient-reported outcomes to the same status as every other clinical test and report.

For the first time, oncologists won’t have to log on to a different system to access these results. They are available, along with every other piece of information in the medical record, in one place. Here is a system that has the potential to bring holistic, personalised care to every patient in Australia.

Taking PROMPT-Care to the world

Following the success of the NSW trial, there has been widespread interest from other groups across Australia and internationally looking at how to extend this system into healthcare settings beyond cancer.

The algorithms used to develop the system are infinitely scaleable. There are several pilots underway that are looking at how PROMPT-Care can be adapted to different cultures and languages.

“This is quite an exciting area of work, which puts us a step ahead internationally” says Project Lead, Professor Girgis. There are endless opportunities for doing other things with PROMPT-Care”.