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| October 15, 2019
This article is a part of BG BrandLab’s Breast Cancer Special Report, assessing the progress we’ve made in the battle against breast cancer and the barriers that we still need to overcome.
Precision medicine and genomics are fueling tremendous gains in treatment, but oncologists have been frustrated—and not with the pace of change. Instead, their feelings stem from the old-fashioned or irrelevant channels for getting access to the information that matters most: the latest treatment guidelines and the most relevant and meaningful insights on how to translate the guidelines and data into patient care.
While the learning and information preferences of oncologists may seem disconnected from the concerns of cancer patients and caregivers, in fact, they are deeply intertwined.
Despite significant progress, the disease is still the second leading cause of death behind heart disease. Cancer causes one in six deaths worldwide, and in the U.S., the disease accounts for 21 percent of total deaths annually. That said, the death rate from all cancers in the U.S. has dropped by more than 26 percent since 1991, fueled, in part, by advances in detection, diagnosis, and treatment.
When oncologists have the most powerful information tools available, patients benefit. Information, insights, and collaboration have always mattered in medicine, but the dynamic cancer treatment environment has made it essential that it is all available quickly, easy to access and compelling, and personalized to the specific learning needs of the physician.
Medscape: Modernizing channels to meet the new dynamics
It may be “buzzworthy,” but if the new information, product, or platform doesn’t deliver as promised, or isn’t relevant to the physician’s work life, then chances are it won’t support physicians in delivering better care to patients. To access potential new tools or resources, it helps to listen to other physicians.
That is where Medscape comes in. With more than 4.3 million active users globally, Medscape is among the largest platforms for news, clinical information, and education for physicians and other healthcare professionals, providing updates on leading-edge medical and technological advancements, innovative immersive physician learning solutions, and digital tools to enhance the point-of-care experience.
When physicians communicate about what works and what doesn’t, it ensures that new learning technologies are as relevant and powerful as possible. Medscape’s most recent innovations have been developed with input from oncologists, leveraging the power of artificial intelligence, machine learning, virtual reality/mixed reality, and modernized digital decision tools. Taken together, they have the potential to improve patient care by getting the most important information into the hands of oncologists, when and where they need it most.
Keeping pace with cancer care: Innovative solutions
Medscape Oncology Decision Point, a new digital tool developed with the input of practicing oncologists, deals directly with a long-standing issue of how to navigate cumbersome databases and derive the latest treatment guidelines in context with practical, expert guidance. With Medscape Oncology Decision Point, oncologists can readily find information on the most recent advances in care, while also hearing the leading evidence-based recommendations and insights from renowned experts, without leaving the digital platform. Oncologists can customize their search by cancer stage and biomarker, helping them find the most relevant real-world perspectives that help bring clinical guidelines to life.
Virtual patient simulations
Can virtual patients help oncologists treat patients in the real world? Research with Medscape’s MedSims Virtual Patient Simulation platform shows they can. In addition to helping doctors improve their diagnosis of complicated conditions, including cancer, virtual patients and their symptoms can realistically challenge physicians on making accurate diagnoses, determining optimal treatment decisions, improving monitoring of patients with serious disease, and improving the oncologist’s ability to navigate difficult or sensitive topics with patients and their families.
Personalized information delivery
Until recently, continuing medical education (CME)—which U.S. physicians must complete annually to maintain credentials—has been “one size fits all,” with standardized curricula and assessments and lecture-style live symposia. The current pace of change in medicine overall, and particularly oncology, demands new personalized and interactive solutions, driven by the power of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and virtual/mixed reality.
Personalizing the online CME experience ensures that oncologists can learn in the style that they prefer. Additionally, using interactive and immersive technologies during live events, including virtual and mixed reality at medical conferences, offers the latest cancer information in a format that has lasting impact. Personalizing and innovating oncology education not only makes for a more engaging and compelling interaction, it has also been shown to help doctors better retain the information delivered, which can immediately inform patient care when the oncologist is back in the clinic.
Crowdsourcing in medicine
As the recent Netflix documentary series Diagnosis shows, the power of crowdsourcing can alter the course of diagnosis and treatment of rare and complicated conditions, changing and potentially saving lives. Medscape Consult is an innovative, physician- and medical student-only crowdsourcing tool for discussing clinical cases and minimizing diagnostic errors.
Doctors share hundreds of challenging cases and clinical questions each month on Medscape Consult, leveraging the insights of their peers and featured experts from around the world. Launched in November 2015, Consult now has visitors from 217 countries and territories and more than 600,000 users, and it is frequently recognized by oncologists for more rapidly leading to an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Information vs. knowledge
The explosion of cancer research and new treatments, and the multiple information channels available to patients, caregivers, and advocates, have challenged oncologists to keep up. This information overload has also demanded that the most crucial information—the new findings, guidelines and data needed by oncologists—is easily accessible and relevant to their practices and their patients. With cancer still a leading killer, there is no time to waste.