By Jennifer Bresnick, HealthIT Analytics | September 26, 2018

Healthcare consumers are cautious but optimistic that emerging strategies like artificial intelligence and advanced genetic testing can lead to better care for cancer, according to a new survey from McKesson and Ipsos.

The poll of more than 2000 individuals found that close to two-thirds (60 percent) of respondents are open to the idea of using genetic testing to identify their risk of developing cancer.

“It’s exciting to see that as genomic medicine is becoming more accessible and affordable, people are willing to embrace DNA testing to learn their potential genetic predispositions,” said Michael Seiden, MD, PhD, president of The US Oncology Network.

Forty-four percent of consumers would trust artificial intelligence to offer a cancer diagnosis or suggest a precision medicine treatment protocol – as long as there are financial mechanisms in place to help patients pay for what happens next.

More participants are concerned about the ability to pay for a disease than what technology is used to discover it.

Three-quarters of participants said a cancer diagnosis would have a “catastrophic” impact on their personal finances.  A mere 13 percent believe their health insurance would cover the entire cost of their care.

More than 60 percent of participants aged 18 to 24 and half of Millennials aged 25 to 37 would forgo treatment entirely due to the cost of cancer care.

“Addressing the significant financial burden cancer care places on individuals and their families will require ongoing research and innovative strategies,” said Seiden.

While there is deep trepidation around the financial component of cancer treatment, Americans are less worried about quality and outcomes.

About three-quarters of participants are confident that should they acquire cancer, they would receive high-quality care.

Genetic testing, artificial intelligence, and other data-driven breakthroughs are a cause for optimism for many: two-thirds of respondents are confident that a cure for cancer will be available within the next 50 years.

In the meantime, consumers are basing their treatment decisions on more than just cost.

While insurance coverage is the top criteria for choosing a cancer care provider, three-quarters of patients would also consider whether or not the facility allows access to the latest technologies and relevant clinical trials.

Seventy-four percent would prioritize provider relationships and staffing, while 60 percent would prefer to seek care at a “brand name” facility.  Only 53 percent believe it’s important for the provider to be close to home, indicating a willingness to travel in order to secure the highest quality care available.

The emphasis on cutting-edge technology may show an increasing awareness about the role that genetic testing and advanced analytics strategies can play in delivering better outcomes for individuals with rare or serious diseases.

Interest in personalized medicine has been on the rise for some time, with a November 2017 poll from Wamberg Genomic Advisors noting that three-quarters of respondents believe genetic testing can help guide care decisions and potentially extend a person’s life.

Close to two-thirds would actively like to participate in genetic testing to better understand their health risks, and just ten percent said they have zero interest in learning about their personal genetic profile in a healthcare context.

The growing interest in genetic testing may accelerate research into treatments for cancer and other conditions that align with an individual’s genetic traits.

Recent progress from organizations like the National Cancer Institute (NCI) are tying specific genes to the development of certain cancers, giving pharmaceutical developers a foundation for creating therapies that target particular variants or mutations linked to malignancies.

Artificial intelligence is likely to play an increasingly important role in supporting this data-heavy work, and may be key to bringing down costs as precision medicine approaches become more routine for oncology and other specialties.

However, health insurance companies will need to do their part to increase coverage options for innovative treatment approaches.

Without assurance of financial support after a cancer diagnosis, the 62 percent of consumers in the McKesson poll who don’t believe they can afford treatment may be even more likely to skimp on care.

“We are… seeing major scientific learnings and technological advances in biology, chemistry and immunology that are being integrated into new therapies for cutting-edge clinical trials within US oncology research,” said Seiden.

“We must continue our efforts to ensure broad access to therapies that improve patient outcomes, hopefully bringing us one step closer to the cure that most Americans believe is within reach.”

Original Article