Q&A with Feyi Olopade Ayodele of CancerIQ: Transforming cancer care as we know it

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AVIA Marketplace is the leading online resource for accurate, unbiased information about digital health companies and solutions. Our goal: To empower hospitals and health systems with the information they need to match with vendors who can meet their unique needs. We asked the top companies in the precision medicine space about their solutions and what they think the future of digital health looks like. No sponsored content or advertorials—just transparency and insights that decision-makers can use. 

CancerIQ seeks to transform cancer care as we know it, with its innovative virtual care platform that empowers health systems to scale access to early cancer detection and prevention for all patient populations. The CancerIQ platform makes it easier to gather comprehensive patient data, map it to the latest evidence-based clinical guidelines, and manage hyper-personalized care plans within existing EHR workflows. Health systems can more readily identify patients who would benefit from preventive care, which improves outcomes, lowers the cost of care, and drives downstream revenue.

Under co-founder and CEO Feyi Olopade Ayodele’s leadership, CancerIQ has expanded its provider network to over 200 locations across the country and established a robust ecosystem of leading diagnostic and genomics vendors. A trusted expert in the field of prevision prevention, Feyi is routinely featured in prominent publications such as Forbes, Modern Healthcare, Health Management Academy, HLTH and more. In addition to an appearance on Crain’s Chicago Business’ 40 under 40 list in 2019, Feyi’s honors include a Chicago Innovation Award, the Chicago Booth New Venture Challenge, a fellowship from Rock Health and a Women Tech Founders Award. Prior to launching CancerIQ, she worked as a management consultant, investor, and investment banker at McKinsey, Actis LLP and Credit Suisse, respectively. Feyi earned both her undergraduate degree and MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Q: Can you tell us about your company and the challenges you are solving within the precision medicine space?

A: CancerIQ is solving three main access problems related to starting, running and growing a cancer genetics program: 

  1. Identification. Because gathering family history can be time-consuming and laborious, providers often skip this step altogether, leaving patient genetic risk remains unknown. CancerIQ’s platform digitally collects family and lifestyle history and automatically identifies and flags patients who qualify for genetic testing based on the newest industry guidelines. 
  2. Clinical guidance. It’s difficult to interpret genetic tests and personalize patient care because most providers do not have extensive genetics training and guidelines change on a regular basis. CancerIQ automatically generates care plan recommendations and guides shared decision-making and patient activation at the point of care.
  3. Follow-through. Without the proper education and engagement, patients don’t adhere to personalized care recommendations and programs don’t generate the clinical and financial return on investment they expect. CancerIQ provides the tools and technology that health systems need in order to engage and manage high-risk patients over time and improve long-term outcomes. 
Q: How does your company differentiate from other precision medicine solution vendors?

A: Because many precision therapies are still in clinical trials or are difficult to access, it can be difficult for providers to fully embrace precision medicine. When they do, it’s often difficult to quantify a clinical and financial return on investment. 

What sets CancerIQ apart is that we are focused on precision prevention of cancer–detecting cancer earlier or preventing it altogether–which is the most validated opportunity in precision medicine today. Precision prevention, based on germline genetic testing, is highly actionable, widely covered by insurance, scalable, and proven to deliver a near-term ROI. 

CancerIQ  identifies at-risk patients using the latest criteria, helps providers understand which clinical services are most appropriate for those patients, and provides the tools and technology to engage patients with their care plans over time.

Q: What are some of the biggest changes your company has seen around how health systems are approaching precision medicine since 2020?

A: We’re seeing hospitals and health systems approach precision health as a revenue-generating opportunity, especially as they face razor-thin margins. Personalized prevention pathways contribute to near-term ROI from higher utilization of screening and diagnostic services. This, combined with other important initiatives like telehealth and health equity, make preventive oncology a priority.

Like most in the industry, we’ve seen health systems embrace telehealth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tele-genetics also took off in 2020 and continues to rise in popularity. This market shift makes precision prevention more accessible because it allows systems to overcome barriers to genetic counselor recruitment and improve access to this imperative resource.

We’ve also seen greater efforts to advance health equity during the last two years as the COVID-19 pandemic uncovered a number of inequities that had been hiding in plain sight. Many health systems are focused on democratizing access to the promise of precision medicine. CancerIQ helps health systems close care gaps by making it easy to conduct comprehensive cancer risk assessment for every patient, not just the “worried well” or those with an obvious family history of cancer.

Q: What does an ideal client look like? How are health systems best organized for success in precision medicine?

A: Organizing for success in precision medicine requires that health systems commit to raising the standard of cancer care. A large number of CancerIQ clients are accredited by the Commision on Cancer, which requires that cancer programs maintain levels of excellence in patient care. Many of these CoC-accredited health systems use CancerIQ to demonstrate continuous quality improvement and maintain this accreditation. 

In addition, health systems that are well-suited for precision medicine typically allocate IT resources for precision medicine-specific tools. To deploy these tools successfully, navigation staff should be in place to support physicians as they educate  patients on their risks and care pathways.

Q: What impact have you seen from your clients who have prioritized precision medicine?

A: Clinically, our health system partners have seen an increase in access to comprehensive cancer risk assessment and genetic testing, which is the first step in precision prevention. Approximately 40 percent of patients who go through the assessment and testing process will require a change in medical management, which leads to an increase in cancer screening compliance rates. 

Financially, we’ve seen near-term incremental revenue generated from precision prevention care pathways as patients access services like colonoscopies, mammograms, breast MRIs and prophylactic surgeries. Prioritizing precision prevention also helps clients achieve lower per-patient cost of care through increased productivity and lower-cost services. Our platform helps automate administrative tasks and build capacity back into the schedules of providers and genetic counselors. In addition to the productivity gains, broader risk assessment and screening leads to earlier cancer detection–which typically requires lower-acuity, lower-cost interventions. 

Lastly, we’ve seen a number of intangible benefits: Health systems that prioritize precision prevention are differentiating themselves from competitors in their market, building loyalty with patients and families, and retaining more patients in the long term. 

Q: What major functional enhancements and/or product investments are you making in the near term to keep up with the evolution of precision medicine?

A: Our newest offering is CancerIQ for Preventive Care, an expansion of our platform that we built specifically to help primary care providers assess comprehensive cancer risk and manage personalized prevention plans for their patients. This is much more comprehensive than out-of-the-box EHR clinical decision support. In addition to age-based tools, it incorporates family history, genetics, lifestyle, screening adherence and more. This suite of tools will help health systems move risk assessment upstream, making it easier to scale precision prevention to all patients.

We are also adding CancerIQ Complete, which pairs our platform with additional wraparound genetics services, including counseling and navigation staff, so that preventive oncology programs can scale without FTE-related constraints. 

Q: How is your company partnering with clients as reimbursements and use cases shift?

A: We are working to expand the interventions that clinicians can access through our platform’s Innovation Marketplace. First, we are evaluating whether our platform can enable somatic testing support, just as it already includes hereditary testing guidance. This additional service will help health systems take advantage of improving reimbursement for somatic testing.

We’re also looking closely at the shifting use cases for hereditary cancer testing data. With emerging treatments for early-stage hereditary cancers, such as PARP inhibitors, our platform can provide not only precision prevention plans, but precision treatment plans as well.

Q: What are the biggest opportunities health systems should be thinking about this year when it comes to precision medicine?

A: As hospitals continue to battle thin margins, I hope they’ll think about the financial opportunities that precision medicine can provide. Personalized prevention pathways offer patients clear next steps that drive both upfront revenue and downstream cost savings. Since the leading precision health tools can automate much of this process, staff can focus on what is most rewarding–direct patient care–while health systems offer these services at scale.

Q: How do you see precision medicine evolving in 2023 and beyond?

A: As health systems continue to focus on revenue-generating, high-ROI opportunities, initiatives around hereditary cancer testing and improved utilization of preventive oncology services will win out as a priority.

We’ve seen that genetic testing is the gateway to interest in other types of genomics. I predict that health systems will use proceeds from their precision prevention programs to reinvest into their precision medicine infrastructure–making precision medicine more actionable down the line.

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