The Clarity of an Expert Opinion Prevents Unnecessary Chemotherapy

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Reshma Singh, a 22 year old, working with a multinational in Pune received a call from her father. Her mother, Mamta, 50, who lived in Sehore, a small town midway between Indore and Bhopal was diagnosed with Resectable Ovarian Cancer following severe abdominal pain and was advised immediate surgery. There was a mass detected in the uterus which meant that a complete hysterectomy was deemed necessary. The family had to travel to Indore where, in consultation with a Laparoscopic surgeon at a private hospital, she underwent a successful procedure where the tumor was removed.

This was supposed to be the end of the ordeal but things turned out very differently. “That one week in the hospital post surgery was a stressful time for us where each doctor visit would cost us several thousand rupees” said Reshma. After a biopsy, the surgeon recommended that she go through a chemotherapy regimen of 7 cycles. “The doctor told us that this was a precautionary measure to ensure the cancer does not recur. This came as a shock to all of us. I also felt that the surgeon was pressuring us into starting an expensive and possibly unnecessary treatment.” A heated debate ensued within the family with some members feeling that the doctors word must be trusted and Reshma insisting that such a big step should not be taken without getting another unbiased opinion from an expert.

Reshma wanted to get an opinion from Tata Memorial Center in Mumbai but her mother was in no shape to travel. She reached out to TMC NCG Online, Navya Expert Opinion Service to get the advice of world renowned experts. She uploaded all her mother’s reports following which a patient advocate reached out to her to understand the medical history and to know what the family wanted to ask the experts. A clarification was sought about the marginal status of the surgery as well as the planned treatment.

The case was compiled and sent to an expert at the Gynecology disease management group and his opinion was sought. The response was that as per the globally accepted guidelines for the treatment of cancers, surveillance was the recommended course of option. This would require the patient to undergo a physical examination and a battery of recommended tests every 3 months for the next two years. Chemotherapy was not a recommended course of treatment at this time. The report was shared with Reshma who shared it with the elders in the family. “When my father saw that the Tata Cancer hospital doctors had given this opinion, there was a sense of relief.”

There is scarcity of cancer experts in India, located mostly in metropolitan cities, but the number of cancer patients in need of an expert opinion is in the millions. Traveling to consult an expert at each of the many treatment decision points is costly, logistically complex, and delays the onset of treatment. In this case, reaching out to TMC NCG Online -Navya Expert Opinion Service, meant that the patient was not administered Chemotherapy which would have been against globally accepted guidelines for that particular situation.

Urging family members of cancer patients, Gitika Srivastava, Founder of Navya, shares her personal viewpoint:  “Most people who have had any experience with cancer are aware of TMC and that it is one of the largest tertiary care centres in the world. However not everyone from far flung areas can come to Mumbai or is aware of the significance of a proper choice in treatment to a change in outcomes. Given the cases we have seen; we would urge everyone to get an expert opinion through TMC NCG Online. You can be assured that the opinion rests on the experience of world renowned cancer experts and follows evidence based protocols best suited to your loved one’s specific case.”

National Cancer Grid (NCG), tmc.gov.in/ncg Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) tmc.gov.in

The NCG is a consortium of 104 cancer centers, with a mandate to standardize cancer care, nationally. NCG is the largest global network of cancer centers collaborating to use technology and training to bring cancer expertise to every oncologist and cancer patient in India. TMC is Asia’s largest leading tertiary care expert cancer center, seeing over 67,000 cancer patients every year. Its strength necessitates a responsibility to make its expertise available to patients across India and developing countries, especially those who reside in locations where there are no expert cancer care centers.

Navya www.navya.info

Navya is a clinical informatics and patient services organization with a unique understanding of cancer patients and oncologists and a core commitment to cancer care. With a proven track record of successfully implementing innovative solutions that are low cost and effective, Navya is the first to develop technology systems specific to Indian cancer data for use by cancer patients and oncologists in India.
Contact:  Gitika Srivastava | gitika@post.harvard.edu

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NavyaCare

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NavyaNetwork/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/organization/15236089/

Major Digital Health/Healthtech/Health 2.0 Trends for 2017 (Part 3)

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First, I will define digital health/healthtech/health 2.0 as products and services that rely on using the Internet and digital data (versus paper or physical contact/in-person consultations), to better the overall physical or mental health of an individual. This does not include medical devices or pharmaceutical.

The major trends for 2017 include using information technology and Internet, of which mobile is a significant component, to do the tasks that patients and physicians or other service providers would ordinarily do, but at a faster, cheaper, and larger scale i.e. to reach a global network without incurring added costs of time and money. Unlike in other industries, healthcare does not allow immediate and ground-breaking leaps in the use of information technology to do new and powerful things that were otherwise not already possible, for example, offering a treatment or diagnosing using the Internet.

Offering a treatment or diagnosing using the Internet.

A few years ago, as an early stage startup investor in Boston, I came across technologies that proposed to use video games to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, or rely on patterns in mobile phone usage to diagnose and manage depression, or leverage the iPhone camera to send images to ophthalmologists to diagnose eye infections in rural India, or attach monitors to cell phones as an electrocardiogram device.

These innovations tread on diagnosing and treating, and must be tempered by regulation and clinical trial validations before adopted use. This is beyond what digital health/healthtech/health 2.0 can reasonably promise to deliver, as the intricacies of the healthcare and legal landscape intervene.

The success of such innovations, measured by adoption and use in the clinical world, is yet to be seen.

However, leveraging technology to improve performance of products and services that already exist, and that improve healthcare delivery as it exists today, is a fair game for digital health/healthtech/health 2.0. This can be boiled down to some key trends.

Trend #3 – Keeping track with the mobile phone

A lot of physical barriers of time and place are broken by the mobile phone today. The mobile phone basically goes wherever you go, no matter where the data or the person who matter to you, resides.

The mobile allows workflow optimizations, such as scheduling and reminders for doctor’s visits, prescription pickup, taking medications, or accessing your health records when you’re on the go.

Secure access to data on the cloud, and on-the-go use of the mobile phone will dominate how patients manage their health matters on a day to day basis. Most likely, there will be more free services and mobile apps that enable such conveniences for patients, and make the experience of interaction with doctors and providers more pleasant and convenient.

Monetization of such conveniences has traditionally been done by collection and sale of data, which in healthcare is valuable (for pharmaceutical companies) but protected by privacy laws (as it should be).

However, when service providers such as a doctor’s office allows you the convenience to complete the medical form on your mobile while you’re waiting in the lobby, driving to the doctor’s office in your cab, collects feedback via a quick alert to your phone on your way out, or allows scheduling to happen via a chat message versus waiting on the phone listening to Muzak for many minutes, there is significant arbitrage of time and money for convenience and pleasantness of experience.

Mobile apps will enable such experiences and enrich the patient, physician, and service providers with time and workflow optimizations. Mobile apps offering several small conveniences in the logistics of healthcare delivery and consumption, will be an enabling trend in the coming years.

– Gitika Srivastava

Online Expert Opinion: Navya.Care

Tata Trusts: tatatrusts.org LinkedIn Facebook  Twitter

Tata Memorial Center: tmc.gov.in  Facebook

Navya: navyanetwork.com  LinkedIn  Facebook  Twitter

Major Digital Health/Healthtech/Health 2.0 Trends for 2017 (Part 2)

photo-effect-359981_1280

First, I will define digital health/healthtech/health 2.0 as products and services that rely on using the Internet and digital data (versus paper or physical contact/in-person consultations), to better the overall physical or mental health of an individual. This does not include medical devices or pharmaceutical.

The major trends for 2017 include using information technology and Internet, of which mobile is a significant component, to do the tasks that patients and physicians or other service providers would ordinarily do, but at a faster, cheaper, and larger scale i.e. to reach a global network without incurring added costs of time and money. Unlike in other industries, healthcare does not allow immediate and ground-breaking leaps in the use of information technology to do new and powerful things that were otherwise not already possible, for example, offering a treatment or diagnosing using the Internet.

A few years ago, as an early stage startup investor in Boston, I came across technologies that proposed to use video games to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, or rely on patterns in mobile phone usage to diagnose and manage depression, or leverage the iPhone camera to send images to ophthalmologists to diagnose eye infections in rural India, or attach monitors to cell phones as an electrocardiogram device.

These innovations tread on diagnosing and treating, and must be tempered by regulation and clinical trial validations before adopted use. This is beyond what digital health/healthtech/health 2.0 can reasonably promise to deliver, as the intricacies of the healthcare and legal landscape intervene.

The success of such innovations, measured by adoption and use in the clinical world, is yet to be seen.

To better the overall physical or mental health of an individual.

However, leveraging technology to improve performance of products and services that already exist, and that improve healthcare delivery as it exists today, is a fair game for digital health/healthtech/health 2.0. This can be boiled down to some key trends.

Trend #2 – Leveling information disparity

Access to medical information including evidence (i.e. published clinical trial data) and outcomes of patients at expert centers, unlocks the ability for any physician to make expert grade treatment decisions for their patients.

The Internet and mobile apps allow for such information to be easily disbursed to physicians, and machine learning on data allows for intelligence to be computed and disseminated to everyone, and not just the specialists at referral centers. This allows physicians in small and remote centers and in the developing world, to have access to the same high quality information that experts at academic centers have usually been equipped to access and use.

Such leveling of information disparity can be seen in every facet of the clinical landscape, where intelligent targeted search engines can make information consumable and ubiquitous around the world. Insurance companies can rely on high quality evidence and experience data to make good decisions about treatments.

Machine learning, clinical informatics, and predictive analytics of medical and patient data will dominate the way clinical decisions are made and executed henceforth.

The next post will conclude my discussion of these trends.

– Gitika Srivastava

Online Expert Opinion: Navya.Care

Tata Trusts: tatatrusts.org LinkedIn Facebook  Twitter

Tata Memorial Center: tmc.gov.in  Facebook

Navya: navyanetwork.com  LinkedIn  Facebook  Twitter

Data Driven Doc: A Clear Way Forward

Navya’s new technology platform to review images is helping us clinch staging and diagnosis accurately to guide treatment opinions for patients with even more precision than before.

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Just a couple of weeks ago, we had the heart crushing situation of a 20-year-old woman who had undergone surgery for an aggressive advanced cancer in the abdomen. After surgery, her PET-CT was still lighting up with growths along some of her blood vessels. The patient wasn’t sure if this meant that she had residual cancer, especially since a biopsy of the nodules was nondiagnostic.

Navya was able to immediately provide an evidence based, expert opinion.

Prior to our imaging review platform, we would have requested the patient to come in person to reconcile the images with the biopsy. Now, with Navya’s review of the clinical details, and our online surgical expert’s review of the images confirmed the sad news that indeed, the patient’s surgery had not been curative. However, Navya was able to immediately provide an evidence based, expert opinion recommending specific additional chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation to affect a cure.

We were also approached by a patient in Chennai with back pain and difficulty walking, with an undiagnosed growth in his spinal cord. Our expert radiologists and neurosurgeons in Mumbai were able to confirm that a patient’s spinal cord tumor appeared benign. Navya’s evidence and experience review pointed clearly towards an immediate surgical resection of the lesion, and our experts agreed. The patient had a clear way forward with a reassurance that the images had been scoured by expert neuroradiologists and neurosurgeons, and incorporated into Navya’s evidence based expert opinion.

-Dr. Naresh Ramarajan

Online Expert Opinion: navyanetwork.com/tmh
Tata Trusts: tatatrusts.org
Tata Memorial Center: tmc.gov.in
Navya: navyanetwork.com

Data Driven Doc: The Ampulla of Vater

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The Ampulla of Vater sounds like something straight out of Hogwarts, but it’s a special vase we all carry within our gut. Digestive juices from the bile ducts and the pancreas pool together in the ampulla to meet the food coming into the small intestine (duodenum) from the stomach in this action-packed area of the GI tract.

Naturally, even small tumors in and around the ampulla cause major problems. Blocking bile ducts causes a quick yellowing of the skin and eyes. When the ampulla is blocked and the juices do not flow freely, the pancreas, the liver and the stomach all start to back up.

Ms. Khan had been living in South Korea for years. Recently, her skin had started to get a jaundiced look, and she wondered if it was something in her diet catching up to her liver. The gastroenterologists at South Koreas premier hospital unfortunately diagnosed her with a periampullary mass in the duodenum, and the surgeons promptly completed a Whipple procedure – named after the surgeon who devised the elaborate surgery to remove the head of the pancreas, common bile duct and duodenum from a patient.

Her surgery was a success! The tumor was completely removed. But three nodes near the duodenum were positive. Mr. Khan wanted to ensure that the cancer didn’t come back or spread.

Experience matters. Indian oncologists see a large number of young patients with advanced GI tumors. Gallbladder and ampullary malignancies appear to affect Indians more frequently, younger and at more advanced stages.

Experience matters.

Mr. Khan reached out to Navya for a review of his wife’s case. Promptly, the Navya Expert System, Vyas matched her case with similar patients seen before. Experience matters again- not just for humans.

Confronted with a duodenal periampullary cancer, Vyas looked up data related to duodenal/intestinal malignancies and recommended fluorouracil based therapies. The structured summary was quickly compiled and sent to an Indian medical expert in London affiliated with Tata Memorial Center for review.

The expert quickly responded, correcting Vyas. Treating the tumor as periampullary rather than as dudodenal/intestinal made more sense, said the expert. The treatment recommended was a two-drug regimen recently shown to increase survival in pancreatic cancer at ASCO 2016. The periampullary arm of the trial was still recruiting, but the true experts were treating ahead of the data, as always.

The patient report reached South Korea within 13 hours of Mr. Khan reaching out to Navya. Needless to say, Mr. Khan’s family was grateful and impressed.

Vyas learned something new from the case. The experts quick review and feedback pointed Vyas to emphasize periampullary origin over intestinal origin of cancers while looking for treatment options. Vyas integrated the knowledge it already had about the ESPAC4 trial from ASCO’s conference in 2016 for pancreatic cancers in a new manner into its experience engine for ampullary tumors.

Experience matters. For patients, experience is the bedrock on which they extend their faith to a physician. For Vyas, the wealth of experience of experts and patients at Tata Memorial Center give it an enormous head start in deciphering complex cases. The opportunity to learn from every patient in the engine with expert feedback makes Vyas an enormously rich and accurate predictor of decisions. Vyas starts out with a bedrock of evidence and guidelines. And with every case it sees, it gets stronger and better at guiding patients towards the best treatments.

The experience of seeing Vyas learn is truly magical. Some days, it feels like something out of Hogwarts.

-Dr. Naresh Ramarajan

Online Expert Opinion: navyanetwork.com/tmh

Tata Trusts: tatatrusts.org

Tata Memorial Center: tmc.gov.in

Navya: navyanetwork.com

 

The Doctor’s Thoughts: A Medical Perspective

medical-563427_1280Navya’s new technology platform to review images is helping us clinch staging and diagnosis accurately to guide treatment opinions for patients with even more precision than before. Just this week, we had a heart crushing situation of a 20 year old woman who had undergone surgery for an aggressive advanced cancer in the abdomen. After surgery, her PET-CT was still lighting up with growths along some of her blood vessels. The patient wasn’t sure if this meant that she had residual cancer, especially since a biopsy of the nodules was nondiagnostic. Prior to our imaging review platform, we would have requested the patient to come in person to reconcile the images with the biopsy. Now, with Navya’s review of the clinical details, and our online surgical expert’s review of the images confirmed the sad news that indeed, the patient’s surgery had not been curative. However, Navya was able to immediately provide an evidence based, expert opinion recommending specific additional chemotherapy, surgery and radiation to effect a cure.

Navya was able to immediately provide an evidence based, expert opinion

We were also approached this week by a patient in Chennai with back pain, and difficulty walking, with an undiagnosed growth in his spinal cord. Our expert radiologists and neurosurgeons in Mumbai were able to confirm that a patient’s spinal cord tumor appeared benign. Navya’s evidence and experience review pointed clearly towards an immediate surgical resection of the lesion, and our experts agreed. The patient had a clear way forward with a reassurance that the images had been scoured by expert neuroradiologists and neurosurgeons, and incorporated into Navya’s evidence based expert opinion.

– Dr. Naresh Ramarajan

Online Expert Opinion: navyanetwork.com/tmh

Tata Memorial Center: tmc.gov.in

Tata Trusts: tatatrusts.org

Navya: navyanetwork.com