Dr Eng H Ooi says he’s had many cancer patients say they wished they’d known more about what they were signing up for.
In his area of specialty, otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, “One of the things we focus heavily on is trying to get treatment started early, because the earlier you start, the better the outcome,” he says.
“However, sometimes the cure can be worse, causing significant side-effects and patients can go on to have problems with swallowing, talking, loss of saliva and eating,” Dr Ooi adds. “It’s just as important to discuss with patients the potential side-effects of cancer treatment, as this enhances their decision-making during their cancer journey.”
An Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon and Associate Professor at the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University in South Australia, Dr Ooi (pictured) has received an Avant Foundation grant to set up and test Envido, an independently developed web-based platform that will make it easier to provide multifaceted patient information, at a glance.
Multifaceted patient information just a tap away
Envido will provide real-time, virtual tracking of patients from diagnosis onwards and collect information including clinical findings such as radiology and blood test results, diagnosis, treatment, complications, changes in symptoms and self-reported quality-of-life questionnaires.
Doctors can enter data about their patients during a consultation or an operation and information will auto-populate and update as a patient progresses through their treatment pathway. Patients will also be able to input on-going symptom information themselves online at home or wherever they like, including in the clinic for patients without access to the internet. Envido will detect where a patient’s symptom ratings decline or if they fall below the standard, and flag an ENT cancer nurse practitioner for follow-up.
“We’ve got all the information here. It’s about linking it together to improve the patient experience,” says Dr Ooi, who is also Head of the Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Unit at Flinders Medical Centre in South Australia.
Technology to enhance doctor-patient partnership
Dr Penny Browne, Avant Foundation Chair, says she is thrilled Avant is supporting this initiative, which she sees as an important step into the future of medicine. “Dr Ooi’s pilot program is exciting in a number of ways, not least, because it’s building on existing information,” she says. “The technology will enhance the partnership between doctors and patients to improve management of patients’ health conditions.”
Driven to improve the patient experience
Dr Ooi, who also works as an ENT in private group practice, is intimately attuned to the tough journey patients with head and neck cancers can face. He has conducted a number of studies in this area looking at the early detection of cancers, improving surgery to enhance patients’ quality of life and reducing morbidity from cancer treatments.
“We’re coming into an era where treatment is more personalised, it’s not simply about telling patients this is what you’ve got to have,” he says. However, he admits it’s difficult to personalise patient treatments in the current environment as the information they have is too disjointed to be helpful.
“There is a lot of patient data about treatments and how good we are at curing cancers, but it’s not all linked together with patient questionnaire outcome measures or pathology, radiology and patient follow-up,” Dr Ooi says.
He hopes Envido will change this and revolutionise access to patient information. In turn, this multifaceted patient information will help doctors counsel patients to make informed decisions, enhancing the shared decision-making process.
“I’m hoping that with Envido we can say to a patient, ‘If you have this treatment, this is what most patients experience for a certain number of months or years, or permanently,’” Dr Ooi explains.
Reducing hospital admissions and performance indicator
In the future, Envido has the ability to reduce hospital admissions and allow for earlier interventions, since patients can report on their condition from home, rather than waiting for a follow-up appointment.
Dr Ooi says the platform will also provide an objective outcomes indicator to improve the standard of care across the board, allowing doctors to continuously improve and benchmark themselves against literature and across both private and public healthcare systems.
Additionally, the platform will provide a better index of how treatments are going across the population of patients. “Are we improving cure and reducing morbidity, or are we improving cure, but increasing complications?” Dr Ooi asks. These are the sort of questions he wants to answer.
The six-month trial is due to commence soon with ENTs in private practice.