Public Health

Expert opinion for cancer patients

Print edition : March 17, 2017

IN a move to standardise cancer care nationally, the Tata Trusts and the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC), a grant-in-aid institution under the Department of Atomic Energy, have joined hands to bring together experts from the National Cancer Grid (NCG) and widen the Navya expert opinion service for cancer. Navya is a clinical informatics and patient services organisation with a unique understanding of cancer patients and oncologists and a core commitment to cancer care in India. The service helps cancer patients get an expert opinion and treatment options from the world’s leading experts, irrespective of their geographical location or understanding of medical information.

Navya is the first to develop technology systems specific to Indian cancer data for use by cancer patients and oncologists in India. “Enabling the convergence between the Navya system and TMC and NCG, experts can now maximise patient outcomes: increase lifespan or number of cancer-free years, improve quality of life, etc., no matter the stage and type of cancer,” said H.S.D Srinivas, who leads the health portfolio at the Tata Trusts.

The TMC, Asia’s largest tertiary care cancer centre, convenes the NCG, a consortium of 89 cancer hospitals in India with the mandate to standardise cancer care nationally. Leveraging the Navya decision system and team of committed patient advocates, experts from the TMC and the NCG volunteer their expert opinion to empower cancer patients and oncologists from remote cancer centres in Bihar to large hospitals in Delhi, from Bangladesh to Mozambique, from below poverty line card holders to affluent patients.

According to a TMC press release, it is estimated that there are around 1,500 oncologists in India serving an affected population of approximately 24 lakh, that is, one oncologist for every 1,600 cancer patients. There are even fewer expert oncologists. This puts pressure on the system, and many of those afflicted are unable to obtain timely access to an expert oncologist’s opinion. Travelling to consult an expert at each of the many treatment decision points is costly, logistically complex, and delays the start of treatment. “The TMC and Navya have collaborated since 2011 to develop an expert decision system that uses clinical informatics, predictive analytics and machine learning to recommend evidence and experience-based expert treatment decisions, similar to decisions made by expert tumour boards,” said Rajendra A. Badwe, director of the TMC. Oncologists at non-expert centres can consult experts online in a simulated tumour board that results in expert treatment decisions for patients everywhere,” said C.S. Pramesh, coordinator of the NCG.

R. Ramachandran

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