Leveraging digital health innovations to accelerate access to quality cancer care in cities

Digital Health Innovations

The extraordinary circumstances stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic are demanding unprecedented resources, adaptability and innovation from health systems across the world. New approaches including digital health solutions and enabling policies that can enhance the coverage, acceptance and quality of health practices and services, are changing the way cancer care is being delivered and experienced. 

Together with key stakeholders, City Cancer Challenge (C/Can) has recognised a critical need to rapidly identify these emerging approaches, and opportunities to scale successful solutions.

That’s why in  June 2020, with support from a core group of partners, and as part of C/Can’s commitment to respond to emerging city needs and support efforts to build back better following the pandemic C/Can launched the Digital Health Discovery Forum

Through a joint collaboration with partners and stakeholders, we will be capturing and documenting insights from health professionals, policy makers and patients to identify and help prioritise digital health innovations, policies and processes that have the potential to transform the future landscape for health and information systems that meets the needs of the people they serve. Dr Susan Henshall, CEO, City Cancer Challenge 

Areas of focus in 2020

Mapping common needs and opportunities 

C/Can is currently supporting nine cities across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe to identify, prioritise and respond to cancer care gaps. Whilst each city context is unique, common areas of need are emerging across the cities with opportunities to address these through digital health innovations, including for example: training of healthcare professionals through online learning platforms; enhancing continuity of cancer care through information systems that promote data interchange, interoperability and accessibility; and improving the quality of cancer diagnosis through integration of digital solutions for remote planning and consultation.  

This mapping exercise will allow C/Can, its city stakeholders, and partners, to identify opportunities to pilot and scale up new solutions that respond to local needs.

Understanding local digital health ecosystems 

To better understand the opportunities, challenges, and enabling factors for digital health innovation, it is important to consider the overall context of the country or health system within which digital health interventions are implemented. This includes a combination of components including: 

  • ICT systems and infrastructure 
  • local/national/regional strategies and investment for advancing digital health
  • relevant legislation, policy and standards 
  • Levels of digital health literacy among both healthcare providers and patients 

C/Can is gathering insights through a series of “discovery interviews” with a targeted group of experts across regions and sectors to capture and document these potential barriers and enablers, that will be key to ensuring the sustainability and scalability of digital health solutions for cancer. 

A recurrent theme in these exploratory conversations with local stakeholders is the importance of recognising the specific needs of patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals

“New digital health solutions, policies and regulations should keep the end-beneficiaries in focus at all times to ensure that good intentions translate to positive outcomes for local populations.  This requires a clear understanding of the needs and perspectives of local communities, their infrastructures and their communications realities (e.g., the need for local languages and/or digital literacy initiatives).” Herb Riband, Global Health Policy Advisor

Fostering city-to-city learning 

A series of four interactive and outcome-oriented regional dialogues (Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America) with regional experts from across sectors will be convened to:

  • share insights on emerging opportunities and innovations that respond to cancer care gaps in the region;
  • identify priority areas that could be applicable, scalable and replicable in low- and middle-income settings;
  • and share practical lessons learned around barriers and enabling conditions for uptake of solutions.

Engaging the “right people” 

C/Can promotes a multi-stakeholder approach in the nine cities where it works, to ensure the right experts and decision-makers drive the local innovation process. Involving key stakeholders across disciplines is critical to achieving meaningful and lasting impact. Similarly, the success of many digital health initiatives depends on the combination of a range of expertise, including technical, medical, legal and other local specialists, as well as policy- and decision makers. The Digital Health Discovery Forum will also focus on building a network of thought-leaders and experts across sectors, as well as developers and providers in the technology, digital health, and related areas that could support the development and adoption of city solutions. 

We take this opportunity to thank all of our existing C/Can partners for supporting this emerging area of work, and particularly Bristol Myers Squibb, Icon GroupMerck & Co. (MSD), Roche, and Varian Medical Systems

Learn more about C/Can’s Digital Health Discovery Forum here.

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