How Your Oncology Peers Manage the Complexities of Care

Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Published: Thursday, Dec 13, 2018
Dr. Sumanta Kumar Pal
Sumanta Kumar Pal, MD
Consciously or unconsciously, all oncologists develop some sort of system for managing the growing complexity of cancer care. The growing number and diversity of treatments may be a boon for patients, but for doctors and treatment centers, this flood of increasing choices is identified with constant adaptation and physician burnout.

Sumanta Kumar Pal, MD, has his own system for sidestepping the voluminous information associated with these advancements, while reducing the risk that he overlooks something important. When he wants to find out about the latest developments in cancer care, he doesn’t go to an esteemed journal, he doesn’t randomly search through news articles, and he doesn’t rely on a Google search: He counts on social media postings by trusted peers to direct him to news articles and journals that contain updates most likely to supply the most recent information that’s of greatest value.

This solution might seem strange to those accustomed to the plethora of irrelevant and often self-gratifying postings found on social media. “Paradoxically, most people don’t have time to avoid social media,” counters Pal, codirector of the Kidney Cancer Program and head of the kidney and bladder cancer disease team at City of Hope, Duarte, California. “The actual time I spend on social media is pretty brief, because I use it as a conduit to get to the meaty articles.” Those who pore through every journal or type key words into Web search engines will have a harder time fishing out what’s new and important, he said.

The complexity of cancer care is compounded by growing demand for care and a limited workforce, rising costs of care, and an increasing number of considerations that must be incorporated into each treatment decision. In a 2013 report, the Institute of Medicine (now the Health and Medicine Division of The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine), concluded that “the cancer care delivery system is in crisis” due in part to this complexity of care.


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