North Estonia Medical Center is Launcing a Digital Collaboration Service to Support Cancer Patients

7 May 2021

North Estonia Medical Centre initiating a development project “OnKontakt” to create a digital collaboration model supporting cancer patients during their treatment. The main aim of the project is to improve the quality of life of cancer patients, reduce the number of unnecessary ER visits, improve patient counselling, collaboration between different medical specialists and use patient reported data in treatment related decision-making. The pilot begins in May 2021 and lasts for 20 months. It is financed by Estonian Health Insurance Fund and the hospital. 

North Estonia Medical Center (NEMC) is developing a digital support system for cancer patients during their oncological treatment. Every year there are about 8800 new cancer cases in Estonia and it´s expected to grow up to 11 000 for the year 2030. NEMC is one of the three cancer centers in Estonia and treats about 50% of cancer patients receiving systematic therapy (chemotherapy, immune therapy, hormone therapy, biological therapy) and 75% of cancer patients receiving radiotherapy.

Cancer therapy can be long and have serious side effects, some of them even life threatening. In 2019, 325 cancer patients were hospitalized trough NEMC emergency room (ER) due to severe side effects, many of which, with proper monitoring and support system, could have been managed at home. Moreover, as Covid-19 crisis proved, physical contact can be limited and/or not available, which has provided an additional impetus to develop digital services to help our patients. The project name “OnKontakt” describes the core of the project – it is a symbiosis of two words – oncology and contact.

Digital service “OnKontakt” is a collaboration model that enables cancer patients to report treatment-related side effects to their care team and to receive support and counselling via health app. Timely knowledge about the patient’s side effects allows early intervention and treatment by the patient’s care team. Therefore, serious, potentially life-threatening side effects and need for hospitalization will be reduced. Platform also collects structured patient-reported outcome data, which can be used to change future treatment strategies (in both cancer clinics and primary care).

Purpose of the telemedicine service:

  1. To maintain/improve patient’s quality of life during treatment.
  2. To reduce the number of unnecessary ER visits done by cancer patients.
  3. To ensure early intervention in case of complications.
  4. To improve treatment compliance, which is a prerequisite for an improved treatment outcome overall.
  5. To increase collaboration between the general practitioners and the cancer clinic.
  6. To use patient-reported data in treatment-related decision-making.
  7. To conduct active patient counseling, which can reduce treatment-related anxiety and increase the patient’s sense of safety.

Patient and the care team are connected through a digital health platform. In 2022 the pilot project includes up to 250 breast and colorectal cancer patients receiving systematic treatment (and/or radiotherapy). When successful, more patients and cancer sites will be included with the vision to provide the service all over Estonia. The preparations begin in May 2021, the patients will be included from the beginning of 2022, and a comprehensive report based on the results from 2022 will be submitted by the end of the first quarter in 2023. The project is co-funded by Estonian Health Insurance Fund and NEMC.

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