'Technology Has Potential To Make Cancer Treatment Better and Affordable'

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India has over 10 million cancer patients and it is in dire need of drugs, affordable treatment and insurance coverage. The healthcare facilities are presently staring at an impending crisis of specialists.


The Entrepreneur India spoke to Gitika Srivastava, Founder and CEO of Navya Network, a Bangalore-based organization which has recently partnered with Tata Memorial Centre, one of the largest cancer care givers in the world, to give treatment opinions to cancer patients online.

On adopting advanced technologies, Srivastava said the company had been collaborating with veteran institutes like the Tata to assess similarities among patients and the kind of decisions these institutes make.

In a country as large as India, there are less than 300 cancer experts for over 1.8 crore patients. Navya uses its expertise to recommend treatment opportunities and offers its advices at the disposal of patients in every part of the country, irrespective of the sufferers' location, privileges or constraints. An online service based on the Navya system has offered expert opinions for cancer patients from 20 developing countries in Asia and Africa. National Cancer Grid, which is a consortium of 89 cancer centres, has joined Navya to provide expert opinions online. Tata Trusts is supporting this initiative to improve the reach of the service.

Bats for Machine Learning

With regard to new technology innovations, Srivastava batted for machine learning technology, which basically helps a doctor learn from electronic record data, past medical records and create a wealth of information that can help in decision-making.

In the realm of cancer prevention, the technology can help patients understand if a particular health situation applies to him particularly. One step beyond prevention is early diagnosis, like in women mammogram has become popular in India – another case where using data a patient can know whether a certain treatment is really required for them, she added.

She said technology in India has to achieve scalability, allowing a lot more people to have access to healthcare facilities. It has to be efficient and time sensitive, cost effective and accurate that implies the knowledge of what exactly the right treatment for the disease is.

When it comes to treatment Srivastava stressed on the need for patients to get treatments like chemotherapy done locally and for that one should know what treatment needs to be implemented.

"Therefore technology plays a crucial role at every stage of diagnosis of a disease," she added.

Making Cancer Treatment Affordable In India

Discussing how the medical industry can reduce the cost of treating cancer, Srivastava said technology played a very important role here in identifying the right diagnosis. "A lot of patients undergo sub-optimal treatment due to the lack of expertise and knowledge about the situation even though patients in some case can afford that treatment," she said.

Most types of cancers which require chemotherapy can be treated using affordable drugs in India and knowing that information is very important, she added.

She graduated in computer science from Harvard University and has an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. She has over fourteen years of experience as an entrepreneur and investor in early stage high-tech and health care companies.

Gitika was the CEO of Skyris Networks, which was acquired by Draper Fisher Jurvetson's Timberline Venture Partners. She holds patents in distributed networking, databases, search technologies and decision making.