Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) National Cancer Grid (NCG) Online – Navya Expert Opinion Service: Empowering cancer patients with expertise and information on their treatment options

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TMC NCG Online – Navya Expert Opinion Service empowers patients with critical information within 24 hours enabling families to make robust decisions in cancer care with adequate inputs from oncologists at Tata Memorial Centre and National Cancer Grid . This service, available at www.navya.care, allows patients to upload their reports and get a response from world renowned experts.

While diagnosing the presence of cancer can be relatively straightforward, treatment is highly specialized and the number of experts experienced in managing complex cases is very few. Many cancers are curable or can be managed for a number of years if diagnosed early and treated appropriately. Choosing the right therapy can be the difference between the best possible outcome and failed treatment. Patients are able to receive the best possible treatment opinion which includes what therapy to choose (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or immunotherapy) as well as dosage, duration, side effects and other details pertinent to the treatment. The detailed report, that answers all questions asked by the patient in language that is simple to understand, can then be shared with the local oncologist to proceed with the treatment locally.

Since 2015, over 12,000 patients from 22 developing countries have reached out to Navya to get expert opinions. Abdul Rahman, who lives in Erbil, in the Kurdish region of Iraq, had previously undergone surgery for pancreatic cancer. Five year later, he started experiencing acute pain in his abdomen and a subsequent CT scan showed a tumor on his liver that had metastasized to his lungs. The local physician asked his family to take him to a tertiary care center that could adequately advise a treatment plan and recommended Tata Memorial Center in Mumbai, India.

Abdul’s brother in law, Haseeb, started evaluating the logistics of traveling to Mumbai and found that the travel and lodging expenses for a trip for him and Abdul would be upwards of $5000. Further, the procedure of getting a medical visa would take at least a few weeks. They would also need to travel with no visibility on how long they would need to stay in Mumbai as they did not know what treatment would be recommended.

Haseeb started finding out more about Tata Memorial Center by going online when he came across the TMC NCG Navya expert opinion service. He was initially skeptical about the veracity and thoroughness of the service as he did not know if it would be comparable to making a trip to Mumbai. He decided to register at www.navya.care and explore the service further.

On registering, Haseeb received an email that explained the complete process that the expert opinion service followed. He would need to upload Abdul’s reports, which would then be summarized and sent to relevant experts at Tata Memorial Center who would provide a treatment plan that would be detailed in a patient report. This patient report could then be shared with the local physician in Erbil and he could be treated there. “The expert opinion service was a boon to us as this was more convenient and cost effective than traveling to Mumbai and Abdul could get treated locally”, said Haseeb Mohammad.

The necessary reports were uploaded following which a patient advocate spoke to Haseeb to understand the case in detail. Some additional reports were sought which the family had but didn’t know were relevant. “I found the person who spoke to me to be very empathetic and thorough in understanding the history of the case. This gave us comfort that the case was being comprehensively analysed.” He was immediately able to upload the additional reports that had been requested.

The case was summarized and sent to a gastrointestinal expert who had trained at National Cancer Institute designated cancer centers such as Harvard, Stanford and UCLA affiliated cancer centers. The expert’s recommendation was detailed in a patient report and the treatment plan included chemotherapy that could be administered in the local hospital. The report was shared with the local physician who started the treatment immediately.

Mr Haseeb said: “Our experience with the online expert opinion service was all that we had hoped for and more. In addition to it being cost effective and quick, we were able to get a treatment plan from an expert without the patient having to travel long distances. The patient advocate was thorough, the process was efficient and the report that we received was detailed and the treatment plan followed international guidelines. Our doctor in Erbil felt that we had made the right choice in approaching TMC NCG Navya online to get an expert opinion.”

Families seek to vet treatment plans with experts but often access to experts is limited. Balancing the need to act quickly while ensuring the decision is made with all relevant inputs is when Navya’s Online Expert Opinion Service becomes a powerful ally. The timely response from experts through Navya has meant that the treatment followed standards accepted globally and may have been the difference between a failed treatment and the best possible outcome.