Noona Cloud Tool for Cancer Patients: Interview with Jani Ahonala, VP, Global Patient Outcomes, Varian Medical


Varian Medical Systems, based in Palo Alto, California, has announced that its Noona mobile service now has some new features, some of which are a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Noona is a cloud-based system that allows cancer patients to connect with their clinicians and clinics. Patients can record their symptoms and proactively manage their conditions. The idea is that issues can be flagged early and the resulting preemptive action could enhance patient outcomes.  

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, mobile solutions for patient care are now more important than ever. Sadly, the pandemic doesn’t just affect patients who contract COVID-19, but also makes it difficult for a variety of existig patients with chronic diseases to manage their conditions, receive appropriate treatment, and attend appointments at healthcare facilities for checkups. Avoiding potential exposure to the virus is important, but it can interfere with basic healthcare in certain circumstances.

Healthcare apps can help to fill this void, providing a virtual connection between patients and healthcare providers, and Noona is an example of such a system designed specifically for cancer patients. Recently, Varian has introduced some new features, including a questionnaire to screen for COVID-19 symptoms, patient access to medical records, and secure messaging.

Medgadget had the opportunity to talk to Jani Ahonala, Vice President, Global Patient Outcomes at Varian Medical Systems, about the technology.

Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Please give us an overview of Noona and its features.

Jani Ahonala, Noona: Noona is a smart cloud-based mobile service that connects cancer clinics with patients, captures patient-reported outcomes to improve the review of symptoms and determines the need for medical attention. Proactivity is increased, which positively impacts survival rates and helps preserve clinical resources. Noona also automates patient management workflows to enhance efficiency and ensure the delivery of more effective patient care. 

Medgadget: What advantages does Noona offer patients in terms of keeping track of their condition and being more involved in managing it?

Jani Ahonala: With Noona, patients are given easy access to healthcare professionals, affording them ongoing communications around their symptoms which helps them feel less depressed and more connected, and granting them the opportunity to play a more active role in their own care. Patients know that their questions and concerns about symptoms will be addressed, providing them with much-needed support and peace of mind. They understand that this engagement will lead to better care.

Medgadget: How have staff responded to using Noona? Does it offer time savings for busy healthcare staff?

Jani Ahonala: Noona provides cancer care teams with significant time savings and improved clinical workflow through more efficient patient monitoring, and the response has been quite positive. Through Noona’s smart algorithms and patient-reported data, staff have the ability to identify and predict symptom changes, prioritize patients by severity and utilize a work queue to automate and track follow-up. This has been a huge time saver for clinicians, saving nurses up to an hour a day on the phone with patients and directing their attention to where it’s needed.

Medgadget: How does Noona help with clinical decision making and the early identification of symptoms?

Jani Ahonala: By equipping patients with a platform to easily participate in the discussion of their treatment, Noona facilitates the collection of key patient-reported data and, subsequently, the delivery of more informed patient care. Clinicians can use Noona to better monitor patient symptoms, predict future outcomes and address minor changes early, providing proactive adjustments to treatment before a patient ends up in the emergency room.

Medgadget: How has the COVID-19 pandemic increased the need for remote medical care?

Jani Ahonala: COVID-19 has really altered the delivery of care, and when you have a patient population that is already at risk with a compromised immune system and dealing with disease symptoms outside the clinic, that’s a big deal. Managing those symptoms and communicating remotely becomes paramount as visits to the hospital or hospitalizations could cause risky exposure to the virus. Having a remote platform that provides greater efficiency and automation is extremely important for clinicians right now, specifically triage nurses, who are otherwise inundated with an enormous increase in calls.

Tennessee Oncology is a great example of how remote capabilities improve clinical workflow. One of the nation’s largest community-based cancer care groups, the organization’s 600 care team members are able to manage about 10,000 patients directly through the Noona patient app and 31,000 patients through the telephone triage workflow automation in Noona. COVID-19 has made a major case-in-point for why Noona is so necessary, and we believe that keeping patients and clinicians remotely connected is going to become foundational as we see the long-term impacts of the pandemic.

Medgadget: Please tell us the new features you have added to Noona in response to the pandemic.

Jani Ahonala: In response to the pandemic, we’ve expanded Noona’s capabilities to support both patients and care teams as they grapple with the “new normal” in healthcare delivery. The Noona app now includes a COVID-19-specific questionnaire that helps identify patients whose symptoms may indicate a possible infection, allowing for swift action to be taken. With the urgent need for this tool, we also reinvented our implementation process to make it much quicker and entirely remote. This rapid deployment process allows us to get Noona into the hands of patients and staff in a matter of weeks without ever requiring in-person exposure.

Info page: Noona mobile service

Link: Varian Medical Systems

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