Care at your fingertips: development of a smartphone app for symptom management in children’s cancer

Care at your fingertips: development of a smartphone app for symptom management in children’s cancer

An article written by Professor Natalie Bradford

We recently co-developed the ‘Oncology Hub’ within the MyQCH smartphone app to support parents caring for a child with cancer. The RESPONSE (REmote Symptom management in Paediatric ONcology) system within the Oncology Hub is a comprehensive approach to symptom management that includes clinical algorithms to determine the level of concern using a traffic light approach and provides symptom management advice. The accuracy of the algorithms was determined through repeated testing and refinements until the expected response notifications were returned with 100% accuracy. Symptoms and blood test results can be graphed over time to show trends. Other features of the Oncology Hub include emergency and sick management plans, daytime and 24 hour contacts for regional hospitals and Queensland Children’s Hospital, notes, a calendar, mindfulness meditations and other resources.

Our goal is to balance the empowerment and autonomy of families, with the expertise of clinicians, encouraging open and consistent communication about cancer-related symptoms. We anticipate this will lead to a range of improved patient outcomes including decreased symptom burden, increased parental confidence, and improved communication.

Our team evaluated the app for its usability, usefulness, and acceptability and found that it was highly rated by families. Out of all the tasks, 84% were rated as easy to navigate and the app demonstrated high usability, usefulness, and acceptability. The layout and design were considered professional, with clear icons and attractive colours. Parents commented:

“It has all the necessary information, that you could take anywhere on your phone. Saves you time, having to repeat yourself 20 times over”.

“Makes tracking the processes a lot easier, gives you peace of mind and helps with understanding when you can track it yourself”.

With most families having access to the internet and smartphones, using apps to collect patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs), visualize data, and provide tailored advice is an attractive concept. These contemporary ways to report symptoms outside of routine hospital and clinic visits offer a potentially efficient and highly effective mechanism for managing, analysing, and reporting data. Moreover, by facilitating individualised recommendations for clinical care, the Oncology Hub supports children and families with cost-effective, accessible, and evidence-based symptom management advice.

Technology provides new processes to think about how clinicians and families can communicate and share information. Implementing PROMs into routine practice for children with cancer can lead to health improvements, reduced healthcare costs, and improved clinician satisfaction with work. Our team will continue to evaluate the RESPONSE system in future research to determine its clinical effectiveness.

References

1. Bradford N, Slater P, Fielden P, Condon P, Skrabal Ross X, Douglas M, Radford C, Carter A, Walker R, Badat A, Edwards R, Spencer B, Herbert A. Care at Your Fingertips: Codesign, Development, and Evaluation of the Oncology Hub App for Remote Symptom Management in Pediatric Oncology. JCO Clin Cancer Inform. 2023 Jan;7:e2200134. doi: 10.1200/CCI.22.00134

You can read more about the RESPONSE team’s work:

Optimising symptom management in children with cancer using a novel mobile phone application: protocol for a controlled hybrid effectiveness implementation trial (RESPONSE)

and visit the website: https://research.qut.edu.au/cpc/team/natalie-bradford/

 

Profile picture of Professor Natalie Bradford

Professor Natalie Bradford
Centre for Children’s Health Research
Queensland University of Technology and Queensland Children’s Hospital

 

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The views and opinions expressed in Palliative Perspectives are those of the authors and are not necessarily supported by CareSearch, Flinders University and/or the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.