Improving Cancer-Related Outcomes with Connected Health

A Report to the President of the United States from the President's Cancer Panel


Letter to President Obama

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

Throughout your tenure, you have demonstrated to the people of the United States your deep commitment to advancing the nation’s health—particularly with regard to cancer, which touches the life of nearly every American. You and your administration have overseen huge advances in the use of technology to improve health. We appreciate your leadership of this important area. We are excited to present you with our report that shows how connected health, a term that captures the ways technology is changing how we manage health, is essential to achieving your vision of a healthier America.

Your President’s Cancer Panel defines connected health as “the use of technology to facilitate the efficient and effective collection, flow, and use of health information.” We live at a most exciting and critical time of technological advances with potential to help individuals manage and improve their own health and support high-quality, patient-centered cancer care. As you have noted, the future is likely to be even better and more conducive to efficiencies and effectiveness for health professionals and engagement for patients. But, today, many patients cannot access or share their own health information; care teams experience electronic health record fatigue and frustration due to lack of interoperability, among other challenges; and researchers do not have a central location to compile, analyze, or even access critical data. Although technologies have been widely adopted in healthcare settings as well as among the general population, health information often remains trapped in silos. Patients, caregivers, care teams, researchers, and health agencies often lack the tools they need to access and optimally use these data.

While the challenges to connected health are daunting, they can be overcome. Our report outlines specific recommendations and action steps to achieve the full vision of connected health in cancer. Connected health technologies have the potential to maximize the value of our nation’s investments in cancer by supporting empowered individuals and patients. The report concludes that connected health is truly about people more than technologies, and that timely and equitable access to data is imperative to improve health outcomes. In addition, a culture of collaboration is essential to accelerate progress.

Mr. President, you are the most “connected” leader the United States has ever had, and we are especially grateful for your leadership in health information technology (IT). In your remaining time in office, we ask your help in urging all stakeholders—health IT developers, healthcare organizations and providers, researchers, government agencies, and patients and their families—to mobilize and collaborate so we may realize the full potential of connected health in reducing the burden of cancer (and so many other diseases) in the United States. That potential, as you suggested in your recent article in Wired magazine,* lies on the other side of the barriers we haven’t broken through yet. The time to act is now. Connected health can be the catalyst for making cancer prevention, care, and research advances that benefit every person in this country and beyond, helping to achieve the Cancer Moonshot goal of doubling the rate of progress against the disease over the next five years. We are grateful for the privilege of having been your President’s Cancer Panel.

With deep appreciation,

Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH
Hill Harper, JD
Owen N. Witte, MD