Technology In Cancer Care: A Story Of Evolving Paradigms

Dr. BS Ajaikumar is the Founder and Executive Chairman of HealthCare Global Enterprises, a hub and spoke institution headquartered in Bengaluru with multiple centers across India and overseas. He is a revered Doctorpreneur, Radiation and Medical Oncologist, Thought Leader, and Philanthropist. In this interaction with the Editor of siliconindia, Dr. Ajaikumar shares actionable insights into the pivotal role of technology towards achieving better healthcare outcomes, especially in cancer care.

How Do You View Tech As An Enabler In Cancer Care?
Thanks to a dynamic tech enabled innovation spree across the globe, cancer therapies and procedures are undergoing a defining change every 75 days. It is heartening to see how innovators, researchers, and clinicians are working together to create a hyperloop of knowledge aggregation. By bridging the divide between the bench and the bedside, technology is fast transforming the status quo of cancer care. Notably, the crucial area of research has undergone a paradigm shift. What was earlier confined to a standalone lab activity is today a collaborative continuum of real time break throughs. Consequently, cancer staging and grading have become decisively accurate, thereby leading to more effective and sustainable therapies.

Robots have taken site location, visualization, and human error mitigation to a whole new level. The haptic sensory feedback has made robotic surgery an experience as intimate as conventional surgery it hardly appears like a remote mechanism. While laser technology has expedited early stage cancer treatments, robotics has dramatically improved advanced stage cancer outcomes. Laser and robotics have together brought down cancer to a level of short stay or day care services. At the same time, therapies like Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy(IMRT) and Image Guided Radiation Therapy(IMGT) have proved game changers, making radiation as targeted and effective as possible.

I personally look at the role of technology in cancer care as a transformative loop of actionable insights both from bench to bedside and from bedside to bench which is making cancer care a scrupulous, curated effort, there by paving the way for a new era of precision and personalized medicine focused on enhancing cancer classification and patient stratification. Technology is increasingly being used to draw enlightening patterns out of biological and clinical data to help tailor early interventions both preventive and therapeutic.

What Are Some Of The Disruptive Technology Advancements For Cancer Treatment In India?
Today, genomics based diagnostics is fast becoming a ‘standard-of-care’ for cancer treatment in India. Genomics can throw critical light on cancer cells, like the behaviour of the tumour, degree of cancer aggressiveness, and the likelihood of its spread across the body. In modern day clinical settings, an interesting mix of patient data is being closely studied, which includes personal and family information, genetic profiles, and history and disease and disorder, as also statistical outliers and peripheral data. Unlike popular perception, psycho oncology also provides intelligent and integral inputs to deciding therapeutic pathways.

In the wake of Covid, telehealth has come of age both from supply side and demand side. While consumers are more than willing to use telehealth platforms, providers have got a big boost from regulatory reforms aimed at enabling faster access and reimbursement. Healthcare as a result is hence becoming more accessible and affordable in the same breath. Going forward, technology will continue to play a pivotal role towards enhancing healthcare systems, increasing access, and reducing costs. Cancer care will consequently move up the value chain on the crosstalk of game changing paradigms including digital diagnostics, IoT and Cloud, Ultrafast scans, Wearables, Blockchain, Digital therapies, Big Data, Nano Health, AI Health, Hackathons, System Learning and Robotics.

Having said that, mere abundance of technologies is not a solution in itself. It is the intelligent deployment of technology that helps us serve the larger cause of healthcare. We need a holistic approach to patient care from pre admission to post discharge aimed at enhancing outcomes, lowering costs, and better resource management based on risk and severity of the disease. Quality of life is not merely about saving lives and vital organs; it is also about restoring patients' capabilities to earn livelihood and social respect. We hence need to address the vulnerable areas that prevent technology from delivering the outcomes it is capable of.

Can You Throw Light On How Clean And Curated Data Helps Deliver Sustainable Patient Care Outcomes?
The Future Health Index 2021 report found lack of interoperability and data standards as the main impediments to the success and sustainability of virtual care. Tons of raw data has been our Achilles heel for long. Big gains from big data will come about when we address the big challenges of data aggregation and quality. Given clean and actionable data, digital health will be able to make the most of analytical techniques to capture and analyse huge and complex datasets, thereby positively impacting patient care outcomes, and optimising business processes. It is heartening to note that the government has issued prudent guidelines for the promotion of research and innovation through data exchange, thereby highlighting the long pending need for a holistic framework for the scrupulous, seamless, and responsible management of biological data. The ensuing data democratization, integrity and interoperability will undoubtedly stimulate collaborative research and focused academia industry interaction in key areas, thereby placing India on the forefront of experiential learning and disruptive innovation.

What Do You See As The Greater Goal Of Technological Enablement?
It is imperative to talk about a paradigm called Intelligent Efficiency which is focused on bringing about energy savings and boosting performance through the deployment of affordable nextgen technologies. Beyond doubt, Intelligent Efficiency is as pivotal as Artificial Intelligence in the context of healthcare innovation. I feel the adjective ‘intelligent' before the term 'efficiency' does not imply that efficiency is otherwise dumb. It only implies a better adaptation and alignment towards achieving the larger goals of efficiency. The term does not undermine the value of human insight and intervention in any manner in fact, it puts a premium on human judgment to help design systems that are more collaborative and cohesive, not merely technology equipped. Irrespective of the technology employed, the larger goal should be the enhancement of system performance, catering to the needs of providers and patients a like.