23 Mar 2021
By Hugh Bettesworth, CEO, Mirada Medical
Over 2020 healthcare teams have had to adapt fast; adopting new practices and technologies to maintain the delivery of critical treatment whilst simultaneously tackling the backlog. But, in the midst of this challenge, we have also unlocked valuable lessons on how we tackle future demand for cancer treatment. By building upon these learnings we can come out of the pandemic with a technology-enabled, future-ready approach to cancer care that will scale in line with growing demand for treatment.
Save time, save lives
Predictions indicate unprecedented future demand for cancer treatment. Cancer Research UK projects there will be 514,000 new cases per year by 2035, an increase of more than 40%. Healthcare organizations must plan for this increase now through optimizing treatment workflows and implementing technology. The rapid development of the local COVID vaccines provides important lessons on efficiency. By removing red tape, and bolstering funding, the teams moved through the trial period at an accelerated pace, resulting in a vaccination program that is already being rolled out. Cancer care teams have demonstrated similar thinking when it comes to time efficiency. For example, many hospitals have responded to the pandemic by optimizing radiation treatment delivery using hypofractionation. This is a technique where patients are given a smaller number of radiation treatments at a higher dosage rate. By reducing the number of sessions and hospital visits, treatment is faster, while also minimizing patient exposure to COVID. However, more powerful doses require greater precision which is one of the reasons why the NHS is exploring Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology solutions to boost cancer care.
The role of AI autocontouring
AI is potentially a powerful way to automate elements of the radiotherapy treatment planning process. As an example, AI based autocontouring such as DLCExpert is already drastically reducing the time-consuming and skill-intensive task of outlining organs at risk in the images from CT scans. Discussing the impact of DLCExpert Angela Rubio, former Chief Medical Dosimetrist at the University of New Mexico Cancer Centre stated that: “Essentially the technology is saving us seven hours a week; almost a full working day.” The widespread use of AI autocontouring has the potential to deliver similar efficiencies across NHS cancer clinics. Its potential has been recognized by the UK government. Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock stated that: “the NHS is committed to fast-tracking pioneering AI technologies to the front line, freeing up clinicians time and saving lives”.
While the government and healthcare practitioners recognize the value of AI autocontouring, getting these solutions into the hands of frontline staff presents a major challenge. NHS staff are stretched to the limit as they tackle the second wave of COVID and the resources are not available to facilitate the introduction of new technologies. To support these organizations, Mirada has launched an Accelerator Program to fast-track access to this technology. This includes hands-on support for the clinical staff and introductory periods to allow for the value of the technology to be assessed and funding sought. To find out more about DLCExpert and the Accelerator Program please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.