Key Takeaways

Delivering exceptional oncology care is complex. Patients and providers must collaborate closely to ensure compliance with complex protocols in support of optimal outcomes. And any missed steps could cause real problems or even harm during care journeys.

For example, medication adherence is one significant contributor to successful results. In fact, research has shown compliance with treatment plans to be essential in treating a whole host of conditions — especially when supporting the effectiveness of oral therapy for cancer.

But how does our current healthcare system grapple with rapidly evolving dynamics between patient and provider within the context of cancer care? And how do health systems ensure crucial steps don’t get overlooked as patients transition to at-home or alternative care settings? Here’s how the Penn Center for Cancer Innovation (PC3I) approached these challenging questions.

A mission to support at-home oral therapy for oncology patients

In 2019, PC3I’s leadership made a clear commitment to using technology to improve care delivery — specifically when it came to managing oral therapy — for all of its patients. However, once at-home care surged with the advent of COVID in 2020, they understood changes in care settings at scale could put more burden on patients to navigate challenging care journeys.

PC3I’s team knew they had to innovate. And they had to do it rapidly to give patients the full support they needed to fully understand and adhere to oral therapy regimens — not only during this time of uncertainty, but also into the future. This meant doing more to help individuals stick to treatment plans outside of hospital walls, monitoring them to track their symptoms, and actively preventing adverse events that could lead to ED visits or treatment setbacks. 

The solution? A digital-first approach with Memora Health as a key part of this initiative titled, Implementation Strategies for Monitoring Adherence in Real Time — or “iSMART.”

Using intelligent care enablement as a key part of the solution

The iSMART program’s investigators decided to use Memora’s intelligent care enablement platform to test their novel SMS-based virtual assistant, Penny. This pilot aimed to measure the effectiveness of AI-supported automation for promoting  medication adherence, improving symptom self-management, and triaging acute symptoms to oncology care teams. 

The resulting digital platform incorporated natural language processing (NLP) to send patients clinically-informed guidance on symptoms, medication reminders, and short surveys via text messaging. It also provided insight into patient status with automated triaging to identify and escalate urgent patient concerns.

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Early improvements in oncology care support

First launching in 2021, the Penny pilot has shown some compelling early results. Most notably, the data suggests patients using Penny experienced decreased symptom burden and improvements in quality of life at 12 weeks when compared with individuals without the virtual assistant. Also, roughly 79% of enrolled patients who self-reported remained fully compliant with their medication regimens at 12 weeks. Though not an improvement from the study’s control group, this rate lands at the higher end of average adherence ranges some studies have suggested

“It was like, there [Penny] is, I have to take my medicine so I can tell her.” - Patient using Penn Medicine’s Memora-powered virtual assistant, Penny

Patient engagement might have improved, too. 87% of patients reported daily, and Penny’s conversational AI successfully managed 60% of patients’ symptom concerns — leaving clinicians with fewer patient questions to answer. And, speaking of care teams, pilot data points to a reduction in average time clinicians took to address Penny’s automatically escalated patient concerns by 40 minutes from 2021 to 2022.

As more and more care plans move from the clinical setting to the home, providers everywhere will need more innovative tools for supporting their patients. Advanced pilots like the one implemented by PC3I’s leadership mark a distinct shift from out-of-the-box point solutions to more thoroughly developed platforms. And as the healthcare landscape evolves at an accelerated pace, these partnerships will be at the forefront of paving the way for more accessible, actionable, and always-on care delivery for all patients.

Want to see Memora’s platform in action? Speak with our team and we’ll introduce you to intelligent care enablement.