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Changing Landscape of Cancer Care Delivery

Cancer care is an area that needs a lot of attention, propelled by next-gen technology which plays a critical role in providing treatment and precision care.


February 2, 2022 12:45:47 pm
Cancer Care Delivery

In the last two decades, there has been a major healthcare shift. This shift is from the focus of care delivery from metros to healthcare providers establishing themselves in tier 2 and tier 3 towns. Single specialty networks are also taking a lot of prominence in the country. Healthcare infrastructure and facilities are improving and becoming more approachable.

When it comes to cancer care, we are highly dependent on technology and early diagnosis, which calls for a synergy between both government and private players. There is also a big gap in healthcare access and affordability between urban and rural India, which companies such as GE Healthcare are starting to address.

Cancer care is an area that needs a lot of attention, propelled by next-gen technology which plays a critical role in providing treatment and precision care. It calls for all stakeholders, such as government, corporates and specialty hospital chains to come together to drive accessibility. 

Cancer incidence in the country is growing quite fast, so is the spread of multispecialty and single specialty hospital chains. Technology adoption is crucial for availability of diagnosis and treatment to a larger population. The healthcare landscape has witnessed a positive change as the entire network is not simply concentrated in the major metros anymore, but gradually moving into Tier 2 & 3 cities. Most importantly, in the last decade, we have seen the evolution of single-specialty networks that are gaining prominence. Cancer is a complex disease and increasing access to technology plays a key role in early diagnosis and making affordable care possible. The Discovery IQ, a one-of-its-kind revolutionary imaging technology by GE Healthcare, for instance was available for nearly 40 percent of what it costs currently. Affordability has in turn spurred technology adoption.

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However, we still have miles to go before we reach our goal. This would only improve with more facilities being set up in government institutions as that will be one big reason for prices to go down for patients who need cancer treatment. The government needs to adopt g, a multi-pronged approach with a comprehensive portfolio of technologies to ensure people get access to the entire pathway of cancer treatment, through public-private partnerships, etc. 

We are not simply talking about geographical reach but also access to good clinicians by establishing cancer centres of excellence near the patient, in their towns. If this happens, in a couple of years, we can expect a reverse migration of specialized doctors shifting from major metros to Tier 3 cities. Cancer is a very unique clinical condition, which requires prolonged treatment and a lot of hand-holding. 

Specialty hospitals and infrastructure need to quicken the pace to match the growing rate of cancer incidence. The government should definitely look at accelerating education initiatives and as a call to action, look at ways to accelerate public-private partnerships coupled with providing quality private healthcare facilities in smaller cities. We are already witnessing progress on this front, which is a step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. There can be a ‘heat map’ of maximum cancer cases in the country and start with these states and districts to set up oncology facilities. So, the government needs to not just play a role in building infrastructure, but also look at getting quality skilled manpower into the oncology care network. 

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Patients must also be educated in choosing the right centre for treatment, depending on the type of cancer. It’s important that they look for a centre that offers organ-specific cancer care. Liver, kidney, bladder or pancreatic cancers are all cancers that present themselves in different parts of the body. Thus, a centre that specialising in a specific type of cancer is the ideal choice for long-term treatment. 

Notably, centres that operate on a tumour board methodology are able to share reports and consultations across similar groups of doctors. This allows all related experts to decide a treatment strategy, based on the stage of cancer and the expected outcome. In the Western world, organ-specific cancer care has already arrived and in India, too, it’s not far behind as we have a lot of specialized medical oncologists. 

Let’s now look at precision care and its significance in cancer care by using high-quality imaging devices to spot a lesion in the shortest possible time with the lowest possible dose. The big disease types in the country are head, neck, cervical, and breast cancer. To give one an idea, if there is a lesion of 1 mm in size, which can’t be spotted by conventional devices, leading the patient to wrongly believe that he or she is cancer-free. Once we effectively spot the disease, we can think about proactively delivering personalized medicine to the patient. 

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There are facilities in the country that are already on their way to bridging the rural-urban divide in cancer care, but to make it a reality across the country, there has to be large-scale adoption of imaging devices and treatment protocols. There is significant development in improving the footprint of cancer care facilities in the country but to accelerate the progress, we need more infrastructural support, with technology and expert resources, alongside positive government initiatives. 

(Source: Podcast on Changing Landscape of Cancer Care Delivery, part of the campaign Cancer Care Matters in association with GE Healthcare. The panelists included Dr. Shibaji Chattopadhyaya, Chief Operating Officer, Cancer Centers of America and Raghavendra Rao, Chief Commercial Officer, GE Healthcare, South Asia.)

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First published on: 02-02-2022 at 12:45:47 pm

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