Dr Amit Jotwani | Onco.com
Dr. Amit Jotwani is the Co-Founder, CMO & Chief Oncologist at Onco.com. Onco.com was co-founded by him in 2016 with a vision to help all cancer patients and their families get the best medical treatment and guidance to ensure they have best possible chances at recovery. It is today the world's first patient-centric cancer care management platform where patients get access to world class cancer experts (from USA & India), advanced treatment centres and quality accredited diagnostic centres in India. The organization serves patients in 18 countries including India and those in Africa, the Middle-East and South Asia. Till date, over 100,000 patients have opted for their services.
Onco.com’s care management team provides comprehensive guidance and support, and helps patients connect with the right oncologists, hospitals and labs for their treatment, get expert nutrition guidance and distress counselling from qualified psychooncologists. Onco.com also offers advice on the most relevant and cutting edge treatment options, technologies and clinical trials. The team is building a virtual cancer platform for the world. Through its network of world-class oncologists, the mission is to provide accurate, unbiased consults to cancer patients at every stage of their disease so that they can take the right decisions.
“Cancer does not affect its victim alone but the whole family gets impacted emotionally, psychologically and financially, and it becomes imperative for us to create solutions that help patients and their families in a comprehensive manner. Our larger goal is to empower cancer patients and their families with the right information on their treatment and offer them the care they deserve. Cancer patients or their caregivers can contact onco.com for any help related to the treatment of the patient. We help them get the most advanced and unbiased treatment plan from expert senior oncologists from India and USA, who are carefully selected to be on our panel after a thorough review process”, says Dr. Jotwani, capturing the direction of his endeavours in brief.
Opening the narrative with the driving passion of his life, the leader whose idea is transforming the nation’s onco terrain one intervention at a time, shares, “It is very important to have a purpose in life and I believe we as humans must strive to make world a better place to live. As an oncologist and cofounder of Onco.com I find purpose in helping cancer patients have better chance in their fight against cancer and have a better life after treatment.”
His journey began with small middle class family background. As he witnessed the family’s trauma of having to navigate form hospital to hospital and doctor to doctor for his mother’s treatment for a heart ailment, the young Amit realized he had found his life’s calling : He would choose medicine as a career. But why Onco, specifically? We urged the idea driven leader to delve a little into the formative journey, and he graciously obliges, “I chose to specialize in Oncology as it was a unique specialty where you fight against cancer which is a formidable challenge against mankind. After completing MD in Radiation oncology I moved to Hyderabad for advanced fellowship training in high precision radiation treatments where I polished my skills in advanced treatments like stereotactic radiosurgery and SBRT. Later I also got trained in advanced techniques from the premier institute in Netherlands. I have since published and presented more than 15 studies in international forums like American society of clinical oncology (ASCO), and American society of radiation oncology and their scientific journals”
So what what was the big turning point or eureka moment that put a ‘ding’ in his journey (in the words of Apple’s Steve Jobs), so to speak? Was there a tipping point that triggered the avalanche of intent and effort? Dr. Jotwani reflects, “I had been practicing as a radiation oncologist over a decade when I used to feel that the cancer patients and their families are fighting a pitch battle against this life threatening condition in complete darkness with no credible guidance or support mechanism through a journey full of fear and uncertainty. These thoughts prompted me to think of a platform that could guide patients during their treatment journey. I enrolled for an executive healthcare management course at the Indian School of Business in the year 2016 to give structure to my thoughts. In the same year my brother-in-law got diagnosed with an aggressive cancer at the age of 36. Suddenly, I was on the other side of the table and I experienced the treatment journey of family of a cancer patient and I realized the magnitude of troubles faced by the patients and their caregivers. This gave me a purpose to create a technology + human interaction based service that could become a comprehensive guiding and supporting force for all the cancer patients and their caregivers.”
If he were to pin-point to the biggest need-gap his venture is addressing / fulfilling, what would it be? Mr Jotwani shares, “Through Onco.com we are primarily filling 3 gaps in cancer care – namely, (1) access to qualified oncologists, (2) information gap and (3) trust.
Access to qualified oncologists is a major problem for cancer patients as more than 70% of qualified oncologists reside in metro cities while majority of patients come from tier 2 & 3 cities and towns. This leads to delayed and many times incorrect treatment for patients.
Additionally, majority of patients in India are diagnosed in later stages of disease which further leads to higher mortality. Patients have no credible source of information regarding best doctor and best treatment for their condition and most of the advice comes from hearsay and family physicians who have their own limitations to assess quality of care received by patients.
Another major gap is lack of patient-centric approach in present system which leads to lack of trust among patients and caregivers. The cancer journey is full of fears arising from confusions and doubts and patients don’t have any avenue to get constant guidance and support. At Onco.com we are trying to fill these massive gaps in cancer care.
There are several things that makes Onco.com a disruption in the ideal sense. We ask the mind – that leads by conviction and courage – to paint the picture for us. “We are building a virtual cancer hospital for the world and this is a completely new concept to bring cancer patients and their caregivers at the centre of the cancer care ecosystem that presently revolves around doctors and hospitals. Once everything is done keeping patient at the centre of cancer care universe then only we will see positive change in patients’ lives. The most important change we need to make in healthcare is that we must put the patients at the centre of everything we think, plan or do in every aspect of healthcare”, says Dr. Amit Jotwani.
By default, disruption comes with attached headwinds. So what were some that Dr. Jotwani and his team faced? “Acceptance to change is the biggest challenge we see as we try to bring a paradigm shift in the system of cancer care in India. The present system revolves around doctors and hospitals while we wanted to change the tide and bring the patient at the centre of cancer care universe. There were questions asked around legal sanctity of online services, accuracy issues owing to lack of clinical evaluation and so on. We tried to allay those apprehensions by our strong ethical, transparent, and scientific approach that helped us gain confidence of the doctors. Slowly, steadily and surely, the tide is changing. Over the past 4 years we have gained trust and support of majority of oncologists and cancer centers”.
It is said that there is no success without failures. Onco.com, too, had its share of failures and very fruitful learnings that helped the team steadily take the bar of excellence higher. As we started to offer online tumour board services and care management services we realized that its not easy to build trust with cancer patients and given gravity of the situation it requires enough time and effort before patients and their families see value in these services but honest intentions and perseverance helped us gain the trust of patients and caregivers”, reflects Dr. Jotwani.
Dwelling on the ‘takeaways’ from his enriching and eventful experiences, “My biggest learning has been that we should be humble about whatever work we have been able to do, so that we can continue to do good work successfully. My advice to young aspirants especially in healthcare would be to focus on 5 mantras to be successful-
1) To have a strong sense of purpose,
2) Follow strict scientific approach,
3) Keep empathy at the core of your thinking,
4) Relentless hard work, and
5) Be patient as the journey is going to be long.
As a pioneer in the field he has chosen, Dr. Jotwani will be rememebered and cherished as someone who didn’t just ‘know the way’, but showed the way – to the industry, fraternity and, indeed, the next generation of leaders. So how would he like to be remembered? What, in other words, would he want his legacy to be? “I have always believed that doing big deeds is more important than becoming big, and hence I always focus on doing meaningful and impactful work that brings real change in lives of cancer patients. That work, if I am fortunate, will be my legacy”, shares Dr. Jotwani.
“Healthcare today needs ‘purpose’ more than ever before. As we see rapid advances in science and technology we need to ask the fundamental question, whether we are able to make life better for majority of our patients? Also as we live in a society where health is a neglected subject it becomes our responsibility to bring healthcare an important subject of social and political discourse so that the benefits of advancements reach more and more people at affordable costs.”
*This story is published by VOH team*
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