Technological Collaboration and Knowledge Frameworks: Changing the Cancer Landscape

Sarah Kugler
Robert Fredericks


All knowledge is some form of information, however not all information is knowledge. It is important that patients are equipped with the proper resources and tools in order to distinguish between what is knowledge and what is information in making decisions regarding their health care. Knowledge is defined as information utilized and mobilized to produce a result. Information rather is defined as a collection of data that in itself has no practical purpose until it is processed and mobilized into a coherent language that can be utilized as a resource. It is at this point that information becomes knowledge.

Today, for the first time the medical community is afforded an unprecedented resource that enables the real time and instantaneous sharing of knowledge and information without necessarily being limited to geographical boundaries. Through technology, patients are able to not only for the first time collaborate with one another, as well as with other physicians and experts. What we are increasingly seeing is a shift in the paradigm towards patients who are rather than passive participants, becoming active participants in their health care as well as, some would argue, experts in their own right.

Throughout my career, I have discovered that while the trans-disciplinary approach provided explanatory and supportive power, the disciplines were interlocked in a circular transfer of information without the knowledge of how it should be utilized. The extent to which each sector operates and views itself as an exclusive entity limits the transfer of information between institutions, conflicting with the nature of the system that operates as an interdependent structure.

It became necessary to look beyond the interdisciplinary relationship to the regulating mechanism transcending the limitations of the individual disciplines, and those manifested through their interdependence, the medical system. It is the medical system’s regulatory role that provides this mechanism in requiring the medical framework to harmonize and balance the various perspectives and sectors. The primary purpose of the medical system is to serve the public good through the inclusion of multiple facets of care as well as perspectives. It is vital that the medical system, should it thrive going forward, take a role in encouraging others to seek solutions through knowledge collaboration and technology.

The reliance on the exclusivity of expertise is one of the primary challenges faced today in establishing knowledge-sharing frameworks. In today's quickly advancing technological era the reality of the situation is that the medical team, research, patient institutions and communities must now operate in an interdependence structure as information becomes more available, as well as more accessible, and is accumulating at unprecedented rates.

It is through the interconnectedness of these different subsets within the medical community that knowledge and resource sharing hit a rate that has never been seen before in history. In doing so the knowledge-sharing framework allows for the medical system to provide not only the proper research access to expertise and access to the human experience of illness, but this foundation and it's interdependent network will also develop a more efficient system of handling the way that we treat cancer and illness moving into the future.

The shift from a peripheral-patient paradigm to one where the patient is central is dependent upon the inclusion of the practitioner’s and clinician’s interdependence on the human experience, as well as the patient experience, that is derived only through that is the patient. This will result in more value-added markets as research and knowledge increase in response to the rapid modernization and technological diffusion taking place within the medical sector.

In order to establish an efficient interdisciplinary structure, and one that is strong enough to support and maintain a knowledge-sharing framework in a way that is successful for both medical practitioners and patients, we need to look at a couple of key factors.

First, it is vital to review existing policies, incentives, support measures and programs that are in place within the system in order to successfully assess the current progress and where we are going. Second, we need to review both public and private sector involvement in the development of such technology as well as further research development to close the technology gap in the medical sector, hence, furthering the absorptive capacity of technological diffusion of the knowledge sharing frameworks. Third, it is through these technological advancements that patients now have access to these previously unattainable resources 24 hours a day.

We do face challenges ahead in achieving this goal. For example, any lack of communication or understanding of the critical need for knowledge-management frameworks between the private and public sectors will decrease the absorptive capacity of the medical sector, setting us back in terms of both science and technology. The extent to which each paradigm of the medical sector operates and views itself as an exclusive entity, will by its very nature hinder the transfer of information between sectors.

In a nutshell, if we are to look at these issues from the perspective of the totality of the circumstances, what is clear is that these knowledge collaboration frameworks and communities afford to patients access to medical resources, data, studies as well as give patients the opportunity to connect with others. Furthermore not only do they serve as a knowledge and medical resource for patients, to interact with one another and to be able to reach out and find they share similar struggles. 

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