New digital cancer care platform facilitates timely, easy, and ready access to care

Dr. Amanda Caissie

As the Medical Co-Lead for System Integration, Quality and Patient Safety at Nova Scotia Health and the Interim Head of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Dalhousie University, Dr. Amanda Caissie is helping unlock a new way to manage patient care with a digital cancer care platform. 

The innovation: 
Noona, a patient reported outcomes tool, facilitates timely, easy, and ready access to care by electronically connecting the patient receiving radiotherapy to their health care provider. This can include intervening early to manage symptoms, identifying psychosocial and emotional needs, or providing digital content to better inform and instruct patients in their cancer journey. 
The platform has been launched for clinical care in both radiotherapy centres of the province, in Halifax and Sydney. It will also be embedded in upcoming research initiatives including the Timely Access Patient Support clinic, which aims to decrease radiotherapy consultation wait times and increase accessibility of support for Cape Breton Cancer Care patients. 

The background: 
Approximately 50% of patients with cancer will receive radiotherapy as a component of their treatment regimen with goal of cancer cure or palliation of symptoms. However, patients have unmet needs for support that could bolster physical, mental and emotional health during and after cancer treatments. Patients need solutions that provide a safer, more convenient, and personalized experience – in clinic and beyond. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted many creative solutions when it comes to providing virtual care for patients and increasing the patient engagement and voice. It’s also becoming more and more feasible to deliver patient-facing digital engagement solutions such as Noona.

The inspiration:
Dr. Caissie’s inspiration for patient outcomes research comes from the desire to support and promote the universal availability of high quality and safe radiotherapy for all Canadians – whether they are treated in Toronto (where she trained for residency), or in the Maritimes (where she proudly lives and works). 

Why it’s important: 
The collection and use of patient reported outcomes is considered standard of care, with evidence showing improved patient quality of life and overall survival. However, despite the importance of patient reported outcomes programs such as Nova Scotia Health’s “Patients Come First”, there remain challenges to successful clinical implementation - including efficiency and efficacy of paper-based tools which limit reach of patients and research opportunities. Noona will enable expansion of the “Patients Come First” program, placing a powerful digital patient engagement tool in the hands of all Nova Scotia cancer patients receiving radiotherapy. There is hope to broaden the project scope in future beyond radiotherapy to include patients from medical and surgical oncology. Immediate next steps for the implementation of this platform include the addition of patient reported outcome measures which are not only general to cancer, but also tumour-site specific. Noona will enable patient reported outcome assessment in clinics and remotely – allowing health care providers to connect with difficult to reach patients, such as those living in rural areas, or those who might be impacted by clinic COVID-19 restrictions. 

Virtual presentations today (April 20, 2022) will provide an overview of the background of the patient reported outcomes program at Nova Scotia Health and how the launch of Noona has been years in the making.