The advance of digital technology continues to revolutionise all our lives on a seemingly ever-increasing basis. The provision of cancer care is no different in this respect.
Opportunities abound to improve practice in all areas of cancer care through better deployment of technology. This includes taking up tools already available, as well as harnessing rapidly emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. However, doing so in an effective and cost-efficient manner is no easy feat. Careful consideration is required with respect to such issues as implementation pitfalls, best practices, and the overall vision of future practice that is being sought.
Panel discussion at the European Cancer Summit 2020 session on “The Digital Transformation of Cancer Care”.
With this in mind, our new Network on Digital Health aims to assist the European cancer community and policy-makers in navigating the challenges of digital cancer care and maximising its possibilities.
Regina Beets-Tan and Wim Oyen convened the first virtual meeting of Network Participants in May 2020, followed by meeting with our Patient Advisory Committee and Community 365 in September 2020. Initial priorities identified by the Network include:
Sara Cerdas MEP, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer, speaking at the European Cancer Summit 2020 session “The Digital Transformation of Cancer Care”.
An opportunity was taken at this year's European Cancer Summit on 18 & 19 November to articulate early reflections from the Network during the session on “The Digital Transformation of Cancer Care”.
Present debates about oncology and data, and the availability of the EU to bring about important new achievements in pan-European cooperation in this area, was a central point of discussion.
Professor Regina Beets-Tan, a member of the EU Cancer Mission Board, elaborated on the EU Cancer Mission's proposed European Cancer Patient Digital Centre, and its future implementation. A roadmap on patient-driven governance is required so that patients can be assured of the safety of sharing data in new ways, and that their needs are fully accounted for. Thereafter, initiatives such as the European Cancer Patient Digital Centre build artificial intelligence-led predictors of outcomes, amongst other benefits.
Fred Prior, Professor and Chair, Department of Biomedical Informatics, University of Arkansas, emphasised that while the enormity of new data sources and tools, such as smartphones, provides its own challenges, it does open the door to wholly new ways of involvement for clinicians and patients in disease management.
Wiro Niessen, Professor in Biomedical Image Analysis, Erasmus MC/TU Delft, emphasised that achieving the promise of personalised medicine also reinforces the need for more data-driven healthcare. This requires investment in fundamental IT infrastructures novel algorithms and validated techniques to create an ecosystem that optimises data use and implementation.
Anastassia Negrouk, Chief Operating Officer, MyData-TRUST, noted that the General Data Protection Regulation, alongside many identified negative impacts on life sciences, has, in another perspective, also required more organisations to define workflows, achieve greater clarification about their stakeholders, stimulated debate and engrained more risk-based regulatory approaches.
Gilly Spurrier-Bernard, a member of our Patient Advisory Committee and Melanoma Patient Network Europe, said patients need easy and compulsory access to their complete records, which should use standardised reporting and terminology. Data also needs to be shared safely, and processes put in place to ensure it does not expire or degrade. Consent should be flexible and progressive, so data is not left floundering for years.
Christian Stoeckigt, Head of Scientific Affairs and Medical Education at Hologic, emphasised the valuable role artificial intelligence-based image guidance could provide in assisting clinicians to handle the great backlog in cancer screening created by COVID-19. Care must be taken to ensure over-interpretation of Data Protection legislation does not needlessly hamper that possibility.
Sara Cerdas MEP, Vice Chair of the European Parliament's Special Committee on Beating Cancer and Co-Chair, ENVI Committee Health Working Group, called for the creation of a European data space combined with a registry. This could help primary and secondary cancer prevention by providing better data on not only risk factors but also causation, as well as indicating whether individuals have been vaccinated and helping to ensure their screening information is up to date.
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