Remote monitoring is fast becoming central to the health service’s hopes of squaring the circle of increased demand for healthcare and staff shortages. For health tech company Entia, offering remote monitoring for cancer patients is a way of both saving resources and harnessing data that will allow it to improve care pathways.
“We want to create the world’s most holistic picture of a patient’s health as they are going through treatment,” Entia chief executive Dr Toby Basey-Fisher told Digital Health News. He notes that the NHS has predicted a one-third rise in the number of people diagnosed with cancer by 2040.
Entia has developed a home blood monitoring and analytics system, known as Liberty, to support cancer patients as they undergo treatment. The system is designed to provide an early warning of possible side effects from cancer treatments, with up to 80% of treatments resulting in at least minor side-effects, Basey-Fisher says. In certain treatments, there can be more than a 10% risk of febrile neutropenia, a common side-effect of chemotherapy where the body may have difficulty fighting an infection, and one that can be fatal if not treated quickly. Such serious complications can cost the NHS around £5,000 to £10,000 per patient to treat.
Empowering patients and clinicians
“It’s one thing to be told that you have cancer and another to be told that you have to live with cancer and its side-effects,” Basey-Fisher said. The monitoring of cancer patients has often been costly and resource intensive for patients – who previously needed to attend outpatient appointments for bloodwork and might face a hospital admission or disruption of their cancer treatment – and for a health system struggling with staff shortages. “We need to find new ways to approach care,” he said. “If you can find ways that will be beneficial for both the patient and healthcare system, that is going to be a huge win.”
Patients use Liberty to monitor their symptoms and vital signs, building in a full blood count analyser that allows a patient to test their blood at home and report neutrophil counts, which can help signal neutropenia. The blood data is analysed and sent through cloud software, saving time and costs and allowing doctors to identify toxic responses days or weeks earlier.
Liberty has been developed using data from over 1,000 patients and 25 patients are currently trialling the system at five large cancer centres in the UK, including Imperial College NHS Foundation Trust and The Christie hospitals. Entia has recently raised £16 million in a Series A funding round to support the launch of Liberty.
Basey-Fisher sees a couple of ways in which Entia’s system can help improve cancer treatment outcomes. In some centres where Liberty is being piloted, he said, they are creating a kind of “flight control centre” where clinicians can watch patients in the community and triage where necessary, thereby potentially creating new pathways.
The company has also been in discussion with drug discovery companies around the Liberty system, which it believes offers a significant degree of potential for novel therapeutics and clinical trials by simplifying the way patients are treated and providing a safety net through a “granular understanding of how people are tolerating or responding to therapy.” Pharmaceutical companies could use this knowledge to optimise doses and improve patient adherence to treatment protocols.
“We’re not necessarily talking about driving personalised medicine, but there is so much we can do by looking at the balance of efficacy and toxicity,” he said. “Our long-term aspiration is survival benefits. We want people on treatment longer, and there is a lot of emphasis on more precision management of patients taking place.”