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Cancer care goes virtual in a first-of-its-kind project

Cancer patients on Vancouver Island who are receiving both chemotherapy and radiation therapy for head and neck or lung cancer are now able to be monitored at home in a first-of-its-kind project.
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VICTORIA – Cancer patients on Vancouver Island who are receiving both chemotherapy and radiation therapy for head and neck or lung cancer are now able to be monitored at home in a first-of-its-kind project. 

“Managing a pandemic has forced the health system to make some swift and necessary changes, and we’re very fortunate that we are well-supported through innovations with partners like BC Cancer and the Office of Virtual Health, to help make incredibly important treatments, like chemotherapy, continue and able to be monitored remotely,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.

Launched in early October, the project is the first in a series of remote patient monitoring initiatives, and is the result of a collaboration between BC Cancer and the Office of Virtual Health, both at the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) and the Ministry of Health. Remote patient monitoring is designed to keep those with significant health challenges as healthy as possible at home. 


“We know that as our population ages, the incidence of cancer will continue to grow. BC Cancer is using innovative virtual health programs to safely meet the demand and deliver high quality care amidst new health concerns,” says Dr. Elaine Wai, project co-lead and radiation oncologist at BC Cancer. “Having continuous information on patient health allows for treatment plans to be quickly adjusted if needed and to provide timely access to additional health services like nutritional assessments, pain and symptom management, or counselling services. Our goal is to keep patients healthy and reduce emergency visits and/or admissions.” 

Following their cancer treatments, patients will monitor their symptoms at home using B.C.'s Home Health Monitoring tool - a virtual tool that will assess temperature, heart rate, weight and physical activity along with common symptoms of side effects that may relate to their treatment. These at home assessments will be regularly monitored by BC Cancer physicians and nurses and can provide important information to guide health care workers when patients need further intervention, possibly before patients even know to reach out for help. 

The ability to monitor patients remotely for several weeks following radiation and chemotherapy treatment will help patients stay connected to their care team. 


"When you have cancer, it can feel like your health is out of your control," says J.H., a BC Cancer patient and one of the first to use Home Health Monitoring. "I use the daily symptom tracker first thing in the morning and I find it a valuable touchstone to connect with my medical team. It provides me with a personal level of care and the tool even asks me if I'd like to receive a call from my BC Cancer care team. When I do get a call from them, it's like they know me. I don't have to tell them how I'm feeling - they know because they've been checking in on me every day."

One week into the project, a patient was saved a trip to the Emergency Department and possible hospital admission thanks to remote monitoring. When the clinicians noted some anomalies in the patient’s data, they conferenced with the patient and brought the patient into the centre for assessment and treatment. This early intervention enabled the patient to then return home. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a shift in health care requiring the use of more virtual health options to keep citizens at home and out of hospital. BC Cancer is well positioned to trial the remote patient monitoring program to meet the at-home needs of our patient population and improve care between in-person appointments.

Quick facts: 
  • This is the first project of remote patient monitoring for patients with cancer in B.C. 
  • The program is currently available for patients receiving curative chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the same time for head and neck or lung cancer at BC Cancer–Victoria.
  • Participants will be provided a tablet, thermometer, weight scale, pedometer and oxygen monitor for approximately 12-14 weeks. 

Learn more: 

BC Cancer, a program of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.bccancer.bc.ca or follow us on Twitter @BCCancer.

The Office of Virtual Health is a service of Provincial Health Services Authority. It leads and provides strategic direction and innovation for the overall virtual health initiative across PHSA. It works collaboratively with clinical, operational and corporate partners, and leads organization-wide planning, and facilitates transformation, including process redesign, change management, project management, education and evaluation. For more information, visit the Office of Virtual Health webpage.

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC.

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