Cancer is a horrible disease that affects all of us through friends, family, ourselves. After talking to more than 1000 cancer patients who identify themselves as digital natives, I can imagine a better journey for the next generation.

With digital natives coming of age, we can expect significant changes in the current patient journey. Growing up in a digital and more service-oriented ecosystem, tomorrow’s patients are the most educated generation in history. The survey gave us a rich understanding of patients’ challenges and identified opportunities for biopharma companies to help.

So, how can we prepare for a healthcare future that reflects next generation needs? They will expect clear, concise, and personalized information presented through the channels they choose. Next generation patients will demand seamless experiences across all channels, tailored to their individual needs and empowering them to be involved in their care. In our survey, 88% of respondents would use a digital platform to enter personal information, monitor health status and share data with specialists. They are used to navigating a complex system of digital social interactivity. They are collaborative and eager to voice their opinions and embrace diversity.

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With digital natives coming of age, we can expect significant changes in the current patient journey.

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The power of digital empowerment

The suspicion of cancer creates great fear and uncertainty. It is natural to seek information about symptoms as a coping mechanism, but it can increase the anxiety and confusion. Young people are often unaware of their cancer risks and lack the urge to get a checkup. Imagine a service that calculates personal cancer risk scores. AI and smart algorithms could use scientific and biological data (like genetics, behavior, and age) to assess risk and automatically book an appointment with a specialist as necessary.

Cancer is a highly individualized experience. Specific, trustworthy information is hard to find. Imagine a patient accesses a digital platform that details their diagnosis, with the latest updates on their specific cancer type—along with understandable, personalized advice and exercises to increase psychological and physical fitness. While this shouldn’t replace any action from the HCP, it could complement the cancer journey and make it more holistic and transparent.

We learned that patients don’t own their records and test results. The data isn’t even digitally available in many cases. Imagine sharing up-to-date patient records with different stakeholders in a matter of seconds to get a second opinion, coordinate care and ongoing checkups or be considered for a clinical trial. Beyond this, patients could volunteer data for research once they are recovered.

Patients need understandable information about their cancer type and details about treatment options. This information could re-balance the HCP-patient relationship and empower patients to discuss alternative treatment options more confidently. Imagine AI-driven, curated content based on global scientific evidence and patient-specific data comparing personalized treatment options. The content would enable HCPs and patients to jointly assess available therapeutic options, even in a community-practice setting.

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What's next for biopharma companies?

There is great potential to improve the experience journey of cancer patients.

  • Digital empowerment will allow patients to have open discussions with HCPs and mutual decision making instead of silent acceptance. As in other industries, digitalization will spark democratization and equity in healthcare.
  • Integrated consumer-driven platforms are likely to become a norm in medicine overall and in oncology specifically. Customizable forums and personalized content unify and filter the oncology ecosystem, creating a space for patients, HCPs, and other service providers to interact. This not only allows patients to get in touch with a worldwide community, but also to choose from a holistic set of relevant services at different stages of their journey.

Biopharma companies have opportunities to integrate their offerings into ecosystems and deliver high-quality services that will help them become patients’ preferred choice. Given a future made up of digital natives, it is imperative that health care interventions and services align with patients’ evolving demands. New offerings focused on personalized information and holistic care will empower tomorrow’s patients to own their journeys and strive for better health outcomes.

While we may not know the specific formats of the digital technology coming in the future, we can predict with 100% certainty that they will come. The challenge is to anticipate and interpret these inevitable changes. Most importantly, we believe that better experience and outcome design comes from a deeper understanding of patients’ needs. Let’s stop imagining and start doing. To learn more about cancer patient challenges and future opportunities read the report.

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Dr. André T. Dahinden

Managing Director – Life Sciences, Precision Oncology and PHC, Global

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