Cancer Research, Statistics, and Treatment

LETTER TO EDITOR
Year
: 2022  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 163--164

Making the seniors tech savvy: The way forward to bringing cancer care to the doorstep


Naganath Narasimhan Prem1, Anupa Pillai2, Joyita Banerjee3,  
1 Consultant Geriatrician, Elderly Care Specialist Jaslok Hospital and Research Center, Mumbai, India
2 Department of Geriatric Medicine, MGM Medical College, Navi Mumbai, India
3 Department of Geriatric Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Joyita Banerjee
Department of Geriatric Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi - 110 029
India




How to cite this article:
Prem NN, Pillai A, Banerjee J. Making the seniors tech savvy: The way forward to bringing cancer care to the doorstep.Cancer Res Stat Treat 2022;5:163-164


How to cite this URL:
Prem NN, Pillai A, Banerjee J. Making the seniors tech savvy: The way forward to bringing cancer care to the doorstep. Cancer Res Stat Treat [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Jun 25 ];5:163-164
Available from: https://www.crstonline.com/text.asp?2022/5/1/163/341294


Full Text



We read with interest the article by Rao et al. on the utilization of technology by older patients with cancer.[1] The study is a commendable effort by the team, being the first of its kind in India, and deals with the very relevant subject of utilization of information technology (IT) by the geriatric population in India. IT has been recognized globally to be instrumental in enabling healthy lifestyle environments, early detection, and routine screening of disease among the aged and can help avoid institutionalization.[2]

The study reports that over 80% of older patients with cancer visiting a tertiary care center for treatment owned a mobile phone which itself is an encouraging first step. Almost 31% of men and 19% of women also had a smartphone. This motivates us to think futuristically about the optimal way to use IT to bring health care to the doorsteps of the aging. The extensive use of telemedicine services has already proved beneficial during the lockdown imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.[3],[4] This can be helpful, particularly in monitoring cancer care in the older adults who are handicapped by restricted mobility, disabilities, and dependency on caregivers. India faces a huge inequity of health-care services based on the socioeconomic status, literacy, age, gender, and urbanicity. As highlighted in the study by Rao et al., women have less access to phones and IT. Using IT sensibly might mitigate these inequities and help reach vulnerable populations like older patients with cancer, among others.

Only 25% of patients used internet services including social media. Inertia and hesitancy of older adults to learn the use of technology is a fact. Efforts taken to train the seniors would help in overcoming this barrier. The best way to help elders adopt health-care technology is to teach and encourage them to use IT and create elder-friendly technology platforms which can conform to their comfort levels.

It was seen that 99% of caregivers had mobile phones and 75% used the internet and social media. However, highlighting what age groups they belonged to would have provided more insight. As pointed out by the authors in the limitations of the study, the caregivers here might not be people actually taking care of the older patients at home. Older patients visiting urban tertiary care centers from rural areas might be dependent on younger, healthy members of the family to accompany them to the facility. Taking care of elders by younger family members, neighbors, and friends is a culturally accepted norm in India. We should take advantage of this inter-generational bonding within families and close-knit societies, more seen in the rural parts, to encourage the younger generations to support and empower seniors technologically.

The study was limited to a single tertiary cancer care center. Multicentric studies involving both urban and rural populations will provide a better idea of the utilization of technology by seniors in far-flung areas of the country. It is a well-known fact that the distribution of the health-care services in our country is skewed. Earlier studies have noted that 60% of the health-care services cater to 30% of the population living in urban India, with an urban-to-rural doctors' ratio of 3.8:1.[5] This disparity could be mitigated by a robust and accessible IT system and telemedicine programs, especially for the senior citizens.

This study compels us to ruminate on the benefits of IT and telemedicine in geriatric oncology so as to empower our older patients with cancer to live a better life and provide them with help when they seek it.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

References

1Rao AR, Gattani S, Castelino R, Kumar S, Dhekale R, Krishnamurthy J, et al. Utilization of technology among older Indian patients with cancer: A cross-sectional study. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2021;4:656-62.
2Sen K, Ingman S. The elder health information technology framework for geriatric care in rural India: A policy initiative. Commun Netw 2020;13:12-24.
3Pinninti R. Management of geriatric cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3 Suppl S1:71-5.
4Dash S, Aarthy R, Mohan V. Telemedicine during COVID-19 in India – A new policy and its challenges. J Public Health Policy 2021;42:501-9.
5Dash S, Nagral S. The National Medical Commission: A Renaming or Transformation? The India Forum; 2019. Available from: https://www.theindiaforum.in/article/national-medical-commission- renaming-or-transformation. [Last accessed on 2021 Mar 18].