Center for Connected Health to develop self-management app for chemotherapy

By: Aditi Pai | Nov 7, 2013        

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Dr. Joseph Kvedar, Center for Connected HealthMcKesson Foundation’s Mobilizing for Health initiative has awarded The Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners HealthCare, grant of an unspecified amount to develop and test a mobile self-management app for cancer therapy patients. The program will help patients who are on oral chemotherapy to better monitor their symptoms and adverse effects of their treatment.

The development of the program, which is based on clinical guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Oncology Nursing Society’s (ASCO-ONS) standards for safe chemotherapy administration, will include a three-month randomized control trial of 104 cancer patients from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Each participant in the study will download a smartphone app that delivers that information about cancer symptoms and medication adherence. The app will also ask about the severity and frequency of these symptoms and deliver self-care strategies formulated from an algorithm in the app. Other features in the app include educational messages about the disease process, medications, symptoms, benefits of adherence, and strategies to prevent side effects and a medication-tracking system to provide participants with feedback.

Kvedar and his team decided to make the switch to using smartphone apps when they realized a large percentage of the patients that they served wanted that feature.

“We have made the transfer in this space anyway from text messaging to smartphone apps because, A, patients started asking for it and, B, when we do surveys, which we do regularly, of particularly our underserved patient groups, we are finding that 60 to 70 percent of them now own smartphones, and they’re asking, ‘why don’t you deliver a richer experience for us?’,” Kvedar told MobiHealthNews. “I just think that’s a really powerful comment on where healthcare has to go and we started applying for these funds to do more app development because patients are ready for it now.”

Kvedar and his team are also looking to potentially reconfigure an existing diabetes texting program into an app because of the demand. He also said two texting programs currently in development, for smoking cessation and obstetrics, might also be turned into apps.

This is the third consecutive year McKesson Foundation has awarded The Center for Connected Health a grant. Last year, the grant was to develop a cancer pain management program, which also began as a texting program and was later turned into an app. The year before that, the Center for Connected Health was funded for a diabetes texting program.

“The common thread between all three of these algorithms is to predict the right messages to send to patients in the context of a clinical setting,” Kvedar said. “The second one that we are working on now is an app for cancer pain management and the one that just got funded is an app for oral chemotherapy management. All three have the common theme of finding ways to intervene in an individual’s life, in a very personalized way, using software algorithms to generate those messages to try to take some of the burden off overburdened healthcare providers and, equally importantly, empower patients to do some of their own care.”