Lung Cancer: Addressing Gaps in Care for this Serious Non-Chronic Medical Condition Through Digital Therapeutics

lung-cancer-blog

Introduction

More than half the people die within the first year of being diagnosed with Lung Cancer. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for lung cancer in the United States for 2022 are about 236,740 new cases and about 130,180 deaths.

Lung Cancer is directly responsible for loss of income, increased health-related costs, morbidity, and mortality in developed and developing countries. The international 5-year survival rate remains lower than other types of cancer at around 17%.

All these factors make lung cancer a matter of utmost concern for health institutions across the world.

Pharmacological treatments have shown promising results, but informational, behavioral, and mental health needs often go unnoticed, causing a decline in the quality of life(QOL) outcomes.

Digital health solutions or digital therapeutics, are truly turning into the companions that patients require for transforming their care journey, to achieve better outcomes, along with the drug. In this article, we will discuss the current gaps that plague the journey of a lung cancer patient, and how a digital therapeutic solution can help bridge these gaps.

Care Journey Gaps for Lung Cancer Patients

With the advent of targeted therapies, there have been improvements in the overall survival rates of lung cancer patients. Despite this, lung cancer remains to be the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide.

Factors contributing to this include:

  • Delay in seeking care  24% of Americans with cancer delayed at least one in-person visit, while in the UK, an estimated 40,000 people are living with cancer without even knowing it. At the time of the diagnosis, 60-70% are diagnosed in the extensive stage where the disease has spread outside the chest.
  • Malnutrition and weight Loss  For patients with cancer, malnutrition is a common concern resulting from anorexia and metabolic dysregulation caused by the tumor itself or the treatment. Malnutrition is often known to lead to cachexia, i.e. severe loss of muscle mass, known to cause more than 22% of deaths in cancer patients. Patients often fail to receive nutritional care either due to difficulty in reimbursement, or greater intent of therapies/care continuum toward the primary disease symptoms.
  • Self-symptom management  For years, we’ve mostly focused on overall survival rates or relapse rates to look at the impact of the therapy, and related symptoms such as pain, headache, fatigue, and nausea have somewhat been overlooked, thereby leading to an increase in time to treatment and increase in healthcare costs.
  • Cancer-related fatigue  Up to 91% of cancer patients experience tiredness and weakness in the form of cancer-related fatigue that comes from chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and surgery. Patients who experience such fatigue often describe it as “paralyzing”. To overcome fatigue, physical activity is highly recommended for patients with cancer.
  • Lack of motivation  As fighting lung cancer is long and tiring, patients and caregivers usually see a fall in motivation. Studies site motivation as an important factor on the road to recovery, and it is possible through continuous involvement of a patient/caregiver in their care journey, a factor underserved in the current care journey.
  • Non-adherence to the treatment  According to a survey, 53% of lung cancer patients forgot oral targeted medicines at least once in 2 weeks. Lack of disease understanding or not being aware of the drawbacks of being non-adherent is an issue. Many therapies for lung cancer involve oral and are taken at home, requiring self-administration, leading to higher non-adherence rates.

Closing the Loop: Digital Therapeutics in Lung Cancer

As available treatments for lung care advance with molecular targeted therapies, immuno-oncology therapies, and precision radiation medicine, the complexity of treatment has increased as well, requiring modifications in the care journey to ensure qualitative care to lung cancer patients.

The new approach in medicine should be to focus on mitigating the limitations of existing therapies by providing optimal treatment and care throughout the care continuum. This is where digital therapeutics can help.

Diagnosis-

  • Early diagnosis Diagnosis as a problem has been long-standing in lung cancer. HCPs report that majority of the patients that see them are metastatic. A digital therapeutic solution is built with powerful algorithms that can help diagnose cancer through weekly reported self-reported data, and initiate a trigger to the oncologist in case of relapse symptoms. This has been shown to improve overall survival rates.

Decision Making-

  • Augment Pharmacological Treatment  Real-world evidence generated through the use of digital therapeutics can be analyzed by treatment mapping algorithms to measure a patient’s response to the prescribed pharmacological therapy. The insights generated can help the healthcare practitioner optimize treatment selection, or manage treatment-related toxicities, thus improving overall outcomes for the patients.
  • Enhanced Disease Management  Personalized care in the form of digital therapeutics provides patients with diverse self-care modalities including exercise regimens, yoga training, meditation, and mindfulness training, which have been proven to support cancer treatment, improve adherence, side-effect management, and reduce unplanned visits, and distress. Digital therapeutics also act as a medium of communication between the care team and the patients/caregiver, thereby reducing the dependency on the healthcare practitioner and improving the utilization of resources.

Treatment-

  • Improved adherence  The capability of digital therapeutics to provide behavioral intervention in the form of gamified information, rewards, alerts, logs, reminders, and dosage scheduling helps pharmaceutical organizations ensure that their treatments are being used to the full effect while helping the patients overcome common issues such as forgetfulness, low disease awareness, or lack of understanding of the side effects.
  • Risk reduction  Patients with lung cancer are prone to risks occurring from therapy (pharmacological/radiation) side effects or tumor growth. Based on an individual patient profile, a digital therapeutic solution can generate actionable insights that can further be used by the patient to self-manage or notify the care team. With the availability of a digital dashboard, the healthcare practitioner has continuous access to the patient and population insights to access disease severity and intervene as and when needed.
  • Better informed patients  Digital therapeutics is like the disease Wikipedia for patients. They come with a host of clinically validated disease-specific information in the form of lessons. Each lesson is focused on helping patients/caregivers become familiar with the disease while equipping the patient with information needed for self-care management as well.
  • Improved vitals with activity monitoring  It is difficult for a patient to check on a number of devices for necessary vitals. A digital therapeutic solutions’ powerful SDK helps integrate a variety of other product offerings, such as wearables and biometric sensors, and diagnostic capabilities, thereby improving the delivery of holistic health information to patients, and clinical decision support features for clinicians.

Post Treatment/Recurrence-

  • Reduced burden and anxiety The long journey of a lung cancer patient can be exhausting for both the patient and the caregiver. A human touch becomes imperative, apart from the behavior building that digital therapeutics have been known to provide. 
     
    A health coach connected virtually on the platform provides support in the form of counseling, and dietary guidance,  to the patients based on their strengths and weaknesses, helping the patient fight disease-related stress, fatigue, and anxiety issues. This gold standard feature in digital therapeutic solutions helps differentiate great solutions in an overcrowded market.
  • Treatment efficacy evaluation with RWE data generation Digital therapeutic solutions provide extensive data related to patient outcomes on an ongoing basis. This data helps patients and healthcare practitioners with real-time insights into pharmacological therapy progress and outcomes, safety surveillance, and adverse event identification. 
     
    Analyzed data on the dashboard also helps with insights into the population, and sub-population level trends helping the clinician with a broader viewpoint of the disease and bringing into purview social determinants of health. Data from DTx can be merged with outputs from attached products in the form of wearables, sensors, and other plug-ins.

Wellthy in Lung Cancer

Wellthy Therapeutics has developed a digital companion for Lung Cancer that is closing the gaps in care for patients and caregivers. It is currently in feasibility testing, with outcome measures including a reduction in symptom burden and quality of life. Get in touch with us to learn more about the study, results, and partnership opportunities.  

Contact us at marketing@wellthy.care for more information. 

To know more about what we do visit https://www.wellthytherapeutics.com/