Singapore startup AI partners with cancer institute to help estimate treatment costs

Singaporean health tech startup Bot MD is collaborating with the National University Cancer Institute (NCIS) to provide a platform to estimate treatment costs for cancer patients. Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), the app is said to be able to identify the most cost-effective option by evaluating drug strengths and suitable alternatives.

Dubbed the NCIS Chemotherapy Cost Calculator, the AI ​​platform will help frontline healthcare professionals estimate the expenses patients need to set aside each month based on key factors, such as their prescribed cancer treatment, residency status, and more. and their eligibility for national subsidy programs.

Government grant programs that have been incorporated into the calculator include the Department of Health Cancer Drug List, Drug Assistance Fund Drug Grant Programs and Standard Drug List, and Outpatient Specialist Grants .

The calculator will be updated whenever there are new plans or plan revisions as well as institutional price revisions to ensure the estimated costs match the actual amount patients should expect to pay, said Bot MD and NCIS in a joint statement Friday.

Bot MD developed the platform alongside the cancer institute’s frontline staff including pharmacists, patient service associates, operations staff, medical social workers and physicians.

The calculator can also be tailored to meet the specific needs of healthcare facilities, such as how they procure and administer cancer treatments. Powered by a proprietary Bot MD algorithm designed to optimize treatment cost, the app identifies the most cost-effective combination of drug concentrations needed to concoct cancer patient-specific doses and alerts healthcare personnel when an alternative generic or biosimilar is available. The latter refers to a drug that is similar in structure and function to a biological drug used in the treatment of cancer.

Users of the NCIS Chemotherapy Cost Calculator will need to enter information such as the chemotherapy regimen, the patient’s height and weight, and select options from drop-down menus that include the patient’s residency status, monthly income of the household and grant status.

The app then calculates the estimated monthly cost for patients, generating a detailed list of medications and services needed for treatment. This is intended to facilitate the claims submission processes for patients.

Most cancer treatments in Singapore include a patient-specific drug combination, which makes financial management complex as manual calculations will be required to estimate treatment costs. Recent policy revisions from the Department of Health also require out-of-pocket expenses to include drugs and clinical indications to assess grants and eligible patient requests. For example, August 2021 changes to Singapore’s MediShield Life reimbursement framework meant that only a list of clinically proven, cost-effective cancer treatments would be covered.

NCIS Associate Consultant for the Department of Hematology-Oncology, Jen Wei Ying, noted that such policy changes have reinforced the need for a “simple and effective” tool that could help her patients understand the cost of their treatment and to be better able to make decisions about their health care.

They could factor those costs into their budgets and seek help early if the costs were prohibitive for them, Jen said. By simplifying the calculation process, the app has also freed up time for frontline medical staff to focus on helping patients cope with their illness, she added.

Dorothea Koh, CEO and Co-Founder of Bot MD, said, “Given the growing complexity of healthcare financing and the growing range of new possibilities in oncology treatments, I believe this tool will be useful not only for public hospitals, but that it will potentially extend to private hospitals and clinics as well as private insurance companies to help simplify the chemotherapy financial counseling process in Singapore.”

Backed by startup accelerator Y-Combinator, Bot MD is focused on delivering AI-powered applications that facilitate physicians and are currently used by more than 18,000 clinicians in, among others, General Hospital of Changi and the National Kidney Transplant Institute.

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