The Data and Informatics Tools to Transform Cancer Care

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Louis Culot is General Manager of the Oncology Informatics business at Philips, where his team is leading initiatives to use informatics to better localize, characterize, and guide treatment decisions in cancer, in support of Philips’ mission to improve the lives of 3 billion people by 2025. Louis’ team uses advanced data modeling and analytic techniques to help clinicians better understand the complexity of the disease made possible through the digital transformation of healthcare, and drive continuous improvement from early detection through treatment and follow-up care.

Talk about Philips’ philosophy when it comes to enabling clinicians to access the data they need for crafting treatment regimens for individual patients

Getting clinicians the right data to make decisions requires us to think about the nature of information which may be available in structured sources, primary sources such as genomics and imaging, clinical notes, and the clinicians EMR environments. Patients themselves will move within and between health systems, especially in dense areas. With this in mind, we recognize our solutions must have strong interoperability components to operate effectively within health systems, methods to exchange documents and primary data between systems, and connect easily with devices and clinical content to take advantage of how those may aid in the decision journey.

Clinicians need their data to be easy to interpret, how do your digital pathology and oncology informatics products do this?

Cancer diagnosis and treatment requires a multi-disciplinary team, whether they meet formally or not—and these team members have specialties requiring deep domain knowledge, yet a need to communicate effectively with their colleagues on the care team in order to provide the right diagnosis and right “next step” in caring for a patient. The clinicians need to do this in a way that conveys a coherent picture of the patient to other members on the care team, and be able to do this concisely while preserving a full view of the patient. This concept comes to life if you’ve ever observed a multi-disciplinary team meeting, where the entire team gathers and debates around complex decisions, relying on each other’s views, expertise, and opinions for a common patient case.

You asked about digital pathology, and it’s a great example—it’s usual practice for pathologists to write reports as a means to communicate, but the actual slide image is lost from the medical case unless it can be preserved and made available digitally. Once digital, the slide, or virtual slide, can be shared for second opinions within the expertise—such as a pathologist asking for a second opinion from a remote colleague—and it can be used with treating clinicians to explain how a precise diagnosis was arrived at, how it lined up with radiology findings and clinical presentation.

With solutions like oncology informatics, we see a similar structure of documentation around a patient, where the clinical inputs taken into account when developing the treatment plan are created in a way which make them useful for pharmacy, payers, and when reviewing cases. When viewed through the lens of oncology pathways, informatics help provider organizations understand their practice of medicine, drive feedback for clinical quality initiatives, and be able to measure the progress they are making towards reducing unwarranted variation in care. Doing this, you can quickly see the importance of being able to effectively map patient cases, with high fidelity, for use throughout the care cycle.

Data integration and interoperability are one thing, but what about the user interface you provide for clinicians and how does that help spur adoption of your offerings?

I’m glad you asked that since the use of IT health systems is cited as a major factor in physician burnout. So, it’s a given that we place an importance on the user interface and user experience. But it is beyond simply a great experience, the user interface must serve a few purposes. The first, and maybe most obvious, is it should be an enabler of the existing diagnostic and clinical workflow. There are many tools which can have high value to healthcare, but they are so disruptive to the workflow that they simply cannot be adopted.

Secondly, the solutions must serve a greater purpose to the organization, or return immediate value to the workflow, which is measurable by the institution. Given the complexities of the health systems we work with, and their own highly heterogenous deployments of systems supporting clinical care, the importance of user interface, user experience, and ability to return an investment to the clinician in exchange for their time with a system are incredibly important.

We believe these areas of focus are essential key ingredients to adoption, and we and our healthcare partners need this adoption to deliver on the quadruple-aim promise of better outcomes, better staff and patient experience, at an overall lower cost.

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