Equicare Health: Bridging Gaps and Enhancing Networks of Cancer Care

A comprehensive cancer care system encompasses the entire spectrum of care – from prevention and screening to diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. At the secondary prevention stage, screening is utilized to detect potential cases. At diagnosis, the presence or absence of cancer is confirmed, and the patient is directed to the best course of treatment. Survivorship commences at diagnosis and continues onto long-term survival.

Early detection through cancer screening is paramount to the control and management of cancer cases. Each cancer type has a different screening procedure, making it imperative to understand the different modalities. The differences range in the administration of procedure to its specificity, sensitivity, and unintended consequences.

Once screening procedures are available and accepted, patient engagement initiatives play an important role in helping health professionals attract patients and better tailor treatment plans to specific tumor characteristics. As individuals move through the cancer care continuum – from screening to the stages of care – clear communication and access to education tools improve patient engagement.

Currently, digital technologies are utilized to enhance engagement with patients, physicians, and allied healthcare professionals by ensuring that accurate information is gathered and transferred throughout the health system in an efficient manner. For instance, patient reported outcomes (PROs) and questionnaires allow self-reporting of symptoms that provide invaluable information for timely risk management and assessing the overall effectiveness of cancer interventions. These tools have proven that enhanced communication and a well-coordinated system is not only advantageous for the patient, but also the medical team, and healthcare system.

Equicare Health – a leading provider of comprehensive care coordination solutions  – aims to assist patients and the medical team through the cancer care continuum. The key is a platform that bridges the gaps and seamlessly connects health professional team members to each other and their patients. For patients, through the patient portal, they can connect with their care team and engage in their healthcare journey. The portal facilitates patient activation and engagement. Once patients receive an invitation letter to sign up, they will be welcomed to Equicare Health’s portal. There, the dashboard guides patients to access resources such as health information, test results, educational material, and appointment schedule. Regular visits to the portal will help patients and their caregivers keep up-to-date on the progress of their treatment and maintain contact with their care team.

The healthcare team enhances patient activation by selecting the appropriate resources available within Equicare CS (ECS). For instance, a physician and/or allied healthcare professional can assign questionnaires to a patient based on the disease site and topic of concern (i.e. depression screening, sleep disorders screening, and/or distress screening). In addition, care teams can assign relevant education covering topics from pre-treatment to survivorship care to assist patients in their own care management. By doing so, patients become actively involved in their own health, and conversations between the care team and the patient are facilitated.

In addition to the care team guiding patients and processing referrals to specialists and health services, they can efficiently coordinate tasks within the care team through Equicare CS. The platform assists with navigation referrals and consults to medical services (i.e. imaging, surgery, radiation oncology), and support services (i.e. counseling, pain management, nutrition, and hospice care). This results in streamlined communication within and between departments and services, making it easier to support patients and enhance the care they need within the many facets of a healthcare team. Once ECS is adequately utilized, patient navigation reports and provider productivity reports can be generated to evaluate quality of care provided to support goals and compliance standards.

The key functionalities of navigation platforms and informatics tools described include the ability to:

 1) Do distress management for CoC accreditation

2) Track navigation activity to support the navigator role to administrator

 3) Standardize documentation throughout departments

 4) Provide timely information to patients

 5) Communicate to the entire cancer care team through the platform

Care becomes more difficult during survivorship, as patients are often lost to follow-up or unaware of the heightened health risks that arise post-treatment. This disconnect with the health system proves to be a challenge in managing patients’ medical and psychosocial concerns. Hence, electronic communication tools are imperative to maintaining contact both during and after active care: within the healthcare team and between the team and the patient.

Each step of cancer care is complex and multimodal. There is a need to create a chronic care model to improve clinical outcomes for patients as well as to maximize the operational efficiency for cancer centers. To date, Equicare Health has served over 250,000 oncology patients and 300 cancer centres who continue to utilize the diverse tools that ECS has to offer. With ECS, care coordination and center specific goals are supported through the Service Team and Workflow Specialist at Equicare, who connect with cancer centers and healthcare professionals to assist them in reaching their goals (i.e. number of PROs filled, meeting accreditation standards, and/or enhancing patient engagement). ECS supports patients and healthcare professionals through the care continuum. With its efficient communication tools, tailored educational content, and patient reported outcomes, ECS gathers information, data and education into a comprehensive platform that empowers healthcare providers, patients, and caregivers in the healthcare journey.

Written by Dorri Mahdaviani , who holds a Masters of Public Health (MPH) from the University of British Columbia (UBC). Her academic and professional interests include the areas of chronic illnesses, health care systems and childhood health and development. 

Infographics and Design by Ann Wong, who holds a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada. She is an author of over 10 SCI publications, having taught at UBC and the Peking University Health Science Center (PUHSC) in Beijing

Impacts of Cancer Screening on Patients, Oncologists, and the Care Process

Cancer screening revolutionized the world of cancer care with its aim to detect cancer before symptoms appear. Early detection is paramount for the control of any disease. When symptoms are detected or apparent, diagnostic tests are used to find out the cause of the symptoms. A procedure, ranging in complexity and invasiveness, can have significant influences on detection, diagnosis, and trajectory of care. Once detected, engaging an oncologist early and connecting the screening results to the expertise needed enhances patient outcomes.

There are different cancer screening procedures in use across the range of cancer types. In the case of breast cancer and colorectal cancer, early detection is correlated with lowering mortality rates [1]. There are times that early detection does not lengthen the life of the patient, but may have other benefits with creating patient awareness. In general, screening tests are recommended and offered to all at-risk individuals, regardless of the outcome. This makes it imperative to be aware of the positive and negative impacts.

Two procedures that have been proven to be very effective at reducing cancer mortality rates are colorectal cancer and breast cancer screening. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause [2] of cancer deaths in the United States. It mainly develops from abnormal growths in the colon or rectum. Screening tests can identify these abnormal growths. They can also detect tumors, and prevent the development of cancer before growths metastasize.

Interestingly, breast cancer mortality rates are lower than colorectal cancer rates. However, the rate of breast cancer diagnosis are higher within American women [3]. How is it that death rates are lower and diagnoses are higher for breast cancer, when compared to colorectal cancer? The answer is complex and depends on the screening tools used along with the nature of the cancer type and stage. Mammography is currently the most commonly supported screening procedure for breast cancer. Its greatest benefit is the decrease in breast cancer mortality: mammography screening has been associated with a 15% to 20% reduction in breast cancer mortality in women aged 40 to 74 years [4]. Despite the differences between colorectal and breast cancer, it is evident that timely and regular screening is key in lowering mortality rates.

An example of where early screening does not necessarily decrease mortality rates is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test for prostate cancer detection [5]. This blood test is able to detect prostate cancer at an early stage. However, routine PSA testing is debated. It is unclear whether early detection and treatment lead to significant changes in the cancer trajectory and the patient’s quality of life. The inadequate evidence of benefits for PSA testing hinders support for this screening test, and shines light on some unintentional consequences.

Recognizing the diversity of cancer screening modalities allows us to understand the scope of their influence across the cancer care spectrum. All tests are followed by results, and cancer screening is no exception. The test has either identified cancer in the individual, or it has not. However, there are truly four outcomes:


True Negative The screening test says the patient does not have cancer when they do not truly have cancer
False Positive The screening test says the patient has cancer when they do not truly have it
False Negative The screening test was not able to detect cancer when the patient truly has cancer
True Positive The screening test says the patient has cancer and the patient truly has cancer


In the True Negative scenario (an ideal case as a patient is cancer free), the potential implications from the screening test are procedural and financial. For example, when screening for colorectal cancer through colonoscopy, perforation and bleeding may occur.

For False Positive and Negative results, the screening test was not able to accurately identify the true state of the disease. When screening results appear abnormal even though there is no cancer (False Positive), anxiety may arise and each additional procedure may pose its own risks. For breast cancer, on average, 10% of women will be recalled from each screening examination for follow-up, only 5 of the 100 women recalled will have cancer [6]. In the case of False Negative, medical care is not sought in a timely manner. Treatment may even be delayed if cancerous symptoms are present. Understandably, the severity of the unintended consequences depend on the type and stage of the cancer.

It has been argued that screening may result in unnecessary earlier treatment or over-treatment. For breast cancer, the diagnosis and treatment of cancers that would otherwise never have caused symptoms or death in a woman’s lifetime can expose a woman to immediate risks. These include surgical deformity or toxicity from radiation therapy, hormone therapy, or chemotherapy, and late effects of therapeutic radiation – new cancers, scarring, cardiac toxicity.

Timely screening has proven to be an effective tool in curtailing cancer mortality rates. With early screening and engagement, health professionals are able to better tailor treatment plans to the individual tumor characteristics. Some screening tests and treatments are almost always recommended as the benefits outweigh the risks posed.

In our next article, we will explore the need for tools that facilitate the transition of care following a positive screening (False Positive and True Positive) through diagnostic, workup, and treatment plan. We will also elaborate further on directly engaging oncologists and the care team.

Written by Dorri Mahdaviani , who holds a Masters of Public Health (MPH) from the University of British Columbia (UBC). Her academic and professional interests include the areas of chronic illnesses, health care systems and childhood health and development. 

Infographics and Design by Ann Wong, who holds a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada. She is an author of over 10 SCI publications, having taught at UBC and the Peking University Health Science Center (PUHSC) in Beijing.