Decreased Morbidity and Optimized Outcomes

Dr. Sabel said there are several ways that the use of mobile technologies can decrease morbidity. “By prompting and reminding patients what to look for and when to call, we can also identify problems early, encouraging communication with health care providers and intervening before things get bad,” said Dr. Sabel.

“I think it is important to point out that our apps have always been designed with the idea of encouraging and facilitating patient-physician communication, not replacing it.”

He said mobile technologies allow physicians to encourage activities that improve outcome, such as monitoring exercises, diet, and preventive therapies. Dr. Sabel said often these messages get lost in the volumes of information that inundate patients with cancer. The app can deliver this information at appropriate times and monitor patient compliance.

“In the future, these technologies will be even more important as therapy becomes more directed through genomics. These patient navigation apps can help filter the educational material based on the patient’s genomic profile so that targeted therapy is merged with targeted education,” said Dr. Sabel.

Learning Tools

The use of apps as a method of learning about complex molecularly targeted treatments has been well received by patients, according to a recent study.2

Investigators designed 3 apps: one each for tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors, and trastuzumab. The apps contained animations with limited text that depicted the mechanism of action of each agent. A health care practitioner then showed the animations to participants and verbally reviewed the information depicted in the app. At the end, each participant was given 2 “exam” questions to determine how well they understood the information. Results showed that all of the patients (N = 64) gave correct answers.

“From our results, it is quite apparent that patients liked this approach of providing education and counseling and actually understood the contents explained to them,” the study authors wrote.

Boehringer Ingelheim has launched a new mobile app, the Gilotrif Patient Care App, aimed at offering patient care and management strategies to health care providers who use afatinib to treat patients with lung cancer.3 The free app is used as an integrated tool and provides physicians, advanced care practitioners, and nurses clarity and guidance in managing patients. There is also a patient-geared version with a focus on education and tracking.

Guiding Treatment Decisions

New phone apps may harness significant power for keeping patients with cancer out of the hospital and extending their survival. A team at Roswell Park Cancer Institute recently developed a mobile app to estimate mortality for patients following surgery for stage 2/3 colon cancer. The app takes into account multiple factors, including comorbidities, tumor size, grade and stage, and aspects of their particular surgical procedure and response to treatment.

“Our calculator can estimate the extent of the benefit that additional treatment, in particular chemotherapy, will be helpful for an individual patient. This can help guide treatment decisions for the colon cancer patient following his or her surgical resection,” said the app’s co-creator, Emmanuel Gabriel, MD, a clinical fellow at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY.

He and his colleague Steven Nurkin, MD, MS, FACS, who is an assistant professor of oncology in the Department of Surgical Oncology, are already expanding the model to develop apps for other disease sites, starting with pancreatic and esophageal cancer.

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“Cancer caregivers are relying more and more on mobile technology to guide care decisions, help predict outcomes, assess quality of life, and as resources to support patients from diagnosis through to survivorship,” said Dr. Nurkin. “Just as the general public has embraced this technology for everyday use, it will be used on an ever-increasing basis to facilitate good cancer care and effective communication with patients.”