A team from the Universitat Politècnica de València (UPV), belonging to the Sabien group of ITACA Institute, in collaboration with the Joint Research Unit on ICT applied to Reengineering in Healthcare Processes (ERPSS) of the La Fe Health Research Institute (IIS La Fe) and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (Greece), has developed an innovative tool that makes clinical data more accessible and helps health professionals to monitor the care processes of cancer patients, facilitating the monitoring of their evolution and decision-making for their treatment. Their results have been published in the journal Frontiers in Oncology.
Cancer is a primary public concern in Europe, accounting for almost a quarter of all cases worldwide. The prevalence of this disease has increased dramatically over the last two decades, which means a very high number of patients who need to be followed up and their specific needs addressed.
“Hospitals collect much medical information related to cancer care in this context. But once collected, it is tough for healthcare professionals to access it effectively and use it to support their decision-making for patient treatment. And this is precisely what our work avoids,” explains Zoe Valero, a researcher in the Sabien-ITACA group at the UPV.
“Clinical experts tell us that they are interested in this type of tool to measure and improve health outcomes and patient experience during the care process. However, their development and implementation are not straightforward, as they have to face three major challenges: first, to have data of sufficient quality to be able to take advantage of these tools; second, to have the active participation of the healthcare professionals involved in the process; and finally, to present the information clearly so that it is useful for decision-making”, explain Gonzalo Collantes, a biomedical engineer at ERPSS, and Bernardo Valdivieso, leader of this research group at IIS La Fe.
Thus, the tool analyses the oncological processes of patients using data from different sources, specifically clinical cases and information provided by the patients themselves. Using process mining techniques, it infers highly relevant information for medical staff, facilitating decision-making.
“It is the only one specifically designed to apply Interactive Process Mining methodologies in the fight against cancer. In addition, oncology experts have participated directly in its design, unlike other Artificial Intelligence technologies, which are black boxes for professionals,” says Zoe Valero.
In this sense, Carlos Fernández Llatas, also a researcher at Sabien-ITACA UPV, stresses that, in the field of clinical tools, it is essential to consider the expectations, needs and requirements of end users to ensure their use, hence the importance of our tool. “In addition, its use not only allows for a better understanding of the patient’s process but also, in the face of advances in medicine, helps to understand the advantages and disadvantages of new treatments and new technologies in their treatment.
New indicators for monitoring prostate cancer patients
The tool was tested with anonymised data from 1,267 patients diagnosed with prostate cancer. Following the interactive and co-creation methodology proposed by the Interactive Process Mining paradigm, experts in process mining and prostate cancer have collaborated to develop an Interactive Process Indicator (IPI) to understand the evolution and follow-up of prostate cancer patients from the moment of diagnosis.
“We hope that these indicators can be standardised so that they can be adapted to other medical centres and serve to better understand oncological processes and optimise treatments,” says Zoe Valero.
The tool has been developed within the framework of the European LifeChamps project. Its first results represent the starting point towards a more ambitious scenario within the project, which includes its validation in real conditions, with four pilot studies in Greece, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Spain.
“In these studies, our tool will support oncology professionals involved in the follow-up of 250 patients over 50 diagnosed with prostate, breast or melanoma cancer,” concludes Carlos Fernández Llatas.
Source: UPV’s Information Office
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