Tech-based cancer company raises access concerns


Charles Ryan, MD, director of the division of hematology, oncology, and transplantation for the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, views Driver’s platform as a way to eliminate geographical barriers, which often keep patients from care, while at the same time enabling researchers to find the right patients for clinical trials.

Dr. Charles Ryan

“We need breakthrough technologies and opportunities for patients to be able to access the most successful and promising cancer treatments, regardless of where they live,” Dr. Ryan said in an interview. “Companies like Driver are attempting to bridge that gap by connecting patients to doctors at world class cancer institutes and direct them toward the best care for their particular condition.”

Driver’s model also allows researchers the opportunity to develop specific, unique treatment for less common cancers and remain optimistic that they can attract patients to receive such treatments as they are developed, Dr. Ryan said.

Dr. Stadler, however, worries that Driver may be giving patients the wrong perception that all it takes is a computer and medical records to determine their best treatment route.

“There’s a lot more subtlety to treatment decisions than most people would like to admit,” Dr. Stadler said. “It’s more than just a bunch of data from sophisticated laboratory tests and the written medical record. Obtaining objective information is the first step, but it’s far from the only step.”

Patients may have significant limitations in functional status that is apparent only during an in-person assessment, for example, he said. In other cases, family members may be essential in conveying information about a patient’s cognitive disabilities. Even when such information is documented, it is sometimes difficult to extract the full picture from the record alone, he said. Dr. Stadler is also bothered that the model requires physicians and hospitals to provide their skilled analyses to a for-profit company, which in turn, charges patients to review the information.

“This is our work,” he said. “I agree that patients should have the information, and I don’t mind sharing anything I have with patients, but now I’m going to share it with another business that essentially is competing with me in terms of providing guidance to patients.”

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