Novel Dynamics in the Oncology Landscape

Novel Dynamics in the Oncology Landscape

Bret Schipper, Chief of Surgical Oncology and Director of Oncologic Surgery, Hartford Hospital

Bret Schipper, Chief of Surgical Oncology and Director of Oncologic Surgery, Hartford Hospital

Healthcare organizations seeking access to the latest technological advancements must position themselves as an active part of the solution, both innovating independently and partnering with others to uncover ways to diagnose, treat and cure more patients.

At Hartford HealthCare, we are keenly focused on the influence and power of technology, fostering a culture and high-impact strategy that allows innovation to occur. I believe the critical component to our success is being nimble enough to apply emerging and innovative technologies while transforming the experiences for patients and providers.This then allows us to redefine excellence in quality and safety, decrease friction to access and delivery of care, diversify revenue and manage costs effectively.

This is particularly true for the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute.

The technology space in cancer is moving at light speed, constantly changing as research allows novel insight into cancer biology and treatment.  The only way to stay on the cutting edge of this curve is to partner with industry and align ourselves with the forward thinkers and visionaries who drive this progress. Through our partnership with the City of Hartford, Trinity College, and UCONN School of business, in running our digital health accelerator, (Digital Health CT), we are part of the team to foster and developmany new and emerging technologies in the cancer space

Personally, this gives me the opportunity as a physician and cancer surgeon to mentor new and emerging startups. One is focusing on development of an automated tumor-on-a-chip system that would grow cancer cells from the patient to screen against chemotherapy drugs. Oncologists could choose the most effective drug for each patient, boosting treatment effectiveness and patient satisfaction. This aligns well with the emerging field of organoids, which some see as an emerging technology allowing physicians to test chemotherapy’s effect, define novel combinatorial strategies and understand mechanisms underpinning drug resistance.

We are also keenly aware of how technology can shape the experience for oncology patients and providers. These include advances in simulation, voice assistance, surgical and robotic technologies,artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced radiation treatments.

Examples include:

• Simulation. Our Center for Education, Simulation and Innovation (CESI) is the state’s largest simulation center, an international destination for industry, military, government and healthcare exploration. Cutting-edge simulation technology – including virtual reality and task-specific trainers, and a robotic training suite -fosters interface with industry research and development teams to find answers to healthcare challenges. Companies come to advance their technology because CESI’s structure allows for research and development that creates the treatment platforms of tomorrow. Our team learns beside them and from them, experiencing the power of new technology first-hand and creating potential opportunities for clinical implementation.

• Voice assistance. Through Digital Health CT, I am also mentoring a company using voice assistance to increase efficiencies and enable clinicians to deliver faster, more personal care, thereby boosting patient and caregiver satisfaction. As a surgeon who spends significant time in a sterile environment asking others to perform various tasks, the opportunity to use my voice to accomplish the same tasks decreases errors and increases efficiency.  The challenge is the complex integration with the various systems that support the healthcare space.

• Surgical and robotic technologies. We are working closely with industry to develop the next generation of robotic surgery platforms, which will allow more precise, minimally-invasive surgical options for patients. Advancements include single-incision surgery and navigational robotics, which allow us to treat patients in new ways. A new robotic platform we are working with, for example, allows us to biopsy, stage and treat peripheral lung lesions endoscopicaly. Previously, the only option for these patients was invasive surgery. We are also using new agents like gleolanto help our neurosurgeons be more precise and show precise tumor margins, allowing for better surgical outcomes.

• Artificial intelligence. AI is rapidly showing promise in multiple areas in healthcare.  From interpreting radiology images to determine efficient OR scheduling, it has had a significant impact. In partnership with faculty from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), we are developing algorithms across the healthcare spectrum that will improve metricstranslating to higher quality, more efficient and increased personalized care for our patients. This, in turn, will spur higher patient satisfaction and continued growth and revenue in our system.

• Proton therapy. Hartford HealthCare partnered with Yale-New Haven Health to bring proton beam therapy, an advanced form of radiation treatment for cancer, to Connecticut through the construction of a 25,000-square-foot proton therapy center. Proton beam therapy delivers radiation through a high-energy beam of protons to irradiate solid tumor such as tumors of the brain and central nervous system, eye, gastrointestinal tract, head and neck, liver, lung, prostate, spine and some breast tumors. This is a great example of collaboration between two competitors on complex and expensive technology showcasing our ability towork together to harness technology in a fiscally responsible manner.

Technology is rapidly advancing on all fronts and the key to successfully integrating it into daily practice in healthcare is to remain nimble enough to harness opportunities as they present themselves. There must be an overarching vision that values technology and the possibilities it offers, in a structure that focuses on innovation to achieve success.

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