I had the pleasure of hosting an Innovation in Cancer Care event at Cass Business School on Wednesday
8th May 2019, focussed on how technology and innovation can improve outcomes for cancer patients.
The event was held in collaboration with the Cass and City University Centre for Healthcare Innovation Research and is part of Bupa's #DebatingExcellenceinHealthCare series of events which aim to support a wider conversation about what best practice looks like in healthcare.
The past decade has seen vast improvements in cancer care and it's an exciting time in oncology. But many challenges still exist and there is more work to do to achieve better outcomes for patients by improving early detection and diagnosis. At Bupa, we are passionate about providing faster access to consultations, diagnosis and if necessary, getting our patients quickly into treatment.
Ian Culligan, Clinical Change Manager at Bupa UK, joined the event to discuss our Cancer Direct Access service. First launched in 2015, any of our 2.2 million customers with a symptom they believe could be cancer can use the service to bypass GP referral. Since launch we've helped over 6,000 customers gain faster access to a specialist consultation to discuss their symptoms. For those diagnosed, we're able to get their treatment started within a month.
At the beginning of this year, Bupa partnered with HCA Healthcare to launch specialist centres for breast cancer which provide Bupa patients with market leading speed of access comprehensive diagnostics and treatment. Nuala Close, Vice President of Cancer at HCA Healthcare UK, explained in her presentation that patients now see a HCA UK consultant within two working days of contacting Bupa, with all initial diagnostic tests completed in one appointment. For most patients this will provide peace of mind on the same day. If treatment is needed, it will be provided within 31 days of calling Bupa – less than half the time set out in national targets.
A key theme throughout the event was looking at how we can embed technology into cancer care in a safe, sustainable and cost-effective way. Dr Amrita Kumar, Consultant Radiologist and Breast Screening Specialist at Frimley Health, explained her work in breast cancer screening and how artificial intelligence (AI) could benefit patients with an early diagnosis, meaning they can be treated quicker and more effectively. Evidence already suggests that 1,300 lives are saved every year from breast screening and with AI, there is an opportunity to see these figures rise.
Professor Gordon Wishart, Consultant Breast Surgeon, discussed My Breast Cancer Risk, a pioneering test which helps women discover their personal risk of breast cancer by combining information about their family history and lifestyle, with genetic testing and data from mammograms.
Finally, we heard from Dr Yiannis Kyratsis, Co-Director of the Centre for Healthcare Innovation Research, who discussed the benefits and challenges of implementing innovation within healthcare. Yiannis explained how cancer care has been revolutionised over the past 10 years, moving from a "one size fits all" approach to a more personalised model of care. While this innovation can improve screening, prevention, diagnosis and survival rates, he warned that we need to be mindful about ensuring any innovation benefits the whole population. He also highlighted disparity in funding with a much smaller proportion allocated to embedding innovation compared to that targeted for R&D.
The speaker presentations provoked a robust discussion within our audience and it was a pleasure to see so many people engaged in the conversation. The event was a great opportunity to bring together a range of different stakeholders to add to the debate about what excellence in healthcare looks like. I am looking forward to Bupa hosting more of these events and engendering innovative practices to help us ensure our customers can lead longer, healthier, happier lives.