Benjamin: Oncology has become a focus for stakeholders like the FDA, which established The Oncology Center of Excellence to explore measurement of the patient experience in both the clinical trial and real-world setting to inform the risks and benefits of cancer therapies.
New cancer research and potential treatments being developed across the industry leverage people’s genetic properties. Within oncology, this means non-chemotherapy treatments and an increased focus on immuno-oncology, which is the study and development of treatments that use the immune system to fight cancer. Because these treatments are so new and have the potential to be so groundbreaking in treating these serious conditions, it’s especially important to understand how patients are feeling and functioning and how their health-related quality of life is impacted by the treatments, especially compared to older therapies.
Beyond the traditional clinical benefits, we have to ask ourselves, “What is this experience going to be like for the patient?”
Benjamin: Digital health offers us new opportunities to “listen” to the patients and to incorporate novel ways of data collection in our research.
On listening to patients, we are increasingly mindful of how patients are interacting with and sharing their experiences with other patients. Patients today are a lot more active in their health care decision-making, and they’re seeking and finding information themselves, whether that’s though an advocacy group or by researching on their own. Observing how patients share their experiences in online communities offers the research community the chance to understand how patients are experiencing their disease and the current treatment landscape.
Digital health also offers new ways to stay connected with patients, like technology that helps doctors follow their patients long-term and without physical visits. For example, at AbbVie we are using an actigraphy device, which measures rest and activity cycles, in a clinical trial.
It’ll be interesting to see what we can learn from those devices, which are focused on important aspects of a condition, but it’s only one piece of the patient experience. Also valuable will be seeing how those data are interpreted by the patient, in his or her words.