1909, Nikola Tesla, renowned scientist and Thomas Edison’s long-time rival, predicted that future generations would possess the power to “transmit wireless messages all over the world so simply that any individual can own and operate his own apparatus."
Patients spend an average of 121 minutes of total time per in-person medical visits. However, the majority of that time is spent in the waiting room or filling out paperwork. According to calculations by U.S. economists, patients spent more than $25 billion and an unneeded 1.1 billion hours each year on medical visits alone.
“In the short term, I’m most excited about telehealth opportunities that connect patients with resources,” ONS member Tracy Gosselin, PhD, RN, AOCN®, associate chief nursing officer at Duke University Health System in Durham, NC, says. Gosselin represented oncology nursing at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s National Forum on the Future of Healthcare in Washington, DC earlier in 2016. “There are devices that can be placed in a patient’s home to provide real-time feeds to providers. We know that iPads and Facetime can be used when we need to do double-checks.”
Through phone calls, video conferencing, or other telecommunication means, patients can directly connect with the nurses and physicians for certain appointments without the added time of an office visit.
With an idea seemingly ripped from the pages of a sci-fi story, medications containing ingestible sensors that report and share data with the patient’s healthcare provider could be on the horizon. In September 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first digital medicine application that combines aripiprazole with an ingestible sensor in the medication tablet.
“The medication may relay information to a home device that the patient wears, and that data would be sent to the physician office,” Gosselin says. “In oncology, with the explosion of oral agents, this may be something we see more of in the future.”
Advances in Precision Medicine
As medical technology continues to evolve, cancer care that’s tailor-made for individual patients based on their genetic data is becoming a reality. Precision medicine has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few decades. The increased computing power and ability to analyze “big data” have become major milestones as this technology develops.
“The opportunity that precision medicine offers is exciting,” Gosselin notes. “I do think it will take time to further understand the implications, but it has the potential to truly change how we treat patients.”
With President Obama’s announcement of the National Cancer Moonshot, research funding for precision medicine will likely receive an increase, hopefully leading to even more breakthroughs in this cutting-edge field.