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Feature Oncology

Disruptive technologies making cancer care more patient centred

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 06 December 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5608
  1. Jacqui Wise, journalist, London, UK
  1. jacquiyoung1{at}

Could advances in diagnostics and digital technologies help to make patients equal partners in their care? Where does that leave doctors’ role? Jacqui Wise reports

What “disruptive” technologies could help deliver patient centred care? A recent cancer conference in London, organised by the Economist magazine, pondered this question. Examples include patient feedback websites and smartphone apps that make doctors engage with patients’ preferences; artificial intelligence that can aid personalised medical decision making; and point-of-care tests that are shifting screening out of the doctor’s surgery and into the community. Indeed, NHS England chief executive, Simon Stevens, used the conference to announce the expansion of a pilot programme offering lung cancer screening in the community.1

Advocates for these innovations argue that they can empower patients, improve communication, promote continuity of care, and push up standards. However, there is a risk that new technologies could prove a distraction for busy doctors and possibly lead to overtreatment and increased workload.

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Neil Bacon, chief executive and founder of iWantGreatCare, a cloud based technology platform that allows patients to review doctors, hospitals, and medicines, told the conference: “Patients are used to going online to find information about restaurants and hotels, but try looking up information about a neurosurgeon who is going to operate on your child. It is very difficult. Our children will look at us and laugh that healthcare has taken so long to catch up. It is happening, but not fast enough.”

He added: “There is a shift of power towards patients. There is always resistance to change, but the walls will tumble. Citizens won’t accept a lack of transparency anymore.”

The NHS Cancer Vanguard programme, which was established in 2015 to test new models of cancer care, has now partnered with iWantGreat Care. The system is being used by 45 NHS organisations …

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