Reading: Mobile Health in Oncology

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Background

In the last decade, the health care sector has been enriched by numerous innovations such as apps and connected devices that assist users in weight reduction and diabetes management. However, only a few native apps in the oncological context exist, which support patients during treatment and aftercare.

Objective

The objective of this study was to analyze patients’ acceptance regarding app use and to investigate the functions of an oncological app that are most required, and the primary reasons for patients to refuse app-assisted cancer care.

Methods

We designed and conducted a survey with 23 questions, inquiring patients about their technical knowledge and equipment, as well as the possible advantages and disadvantages, data transfer, and general functionality of an app.

Results

A total of 375 patients participated; the participation rate was 60.7% (375/618). Gender distribution was about 3:4 (female:male) with a median age of 59 years (range 18-92 years). Whereas 69.6% (261/375) of patients used mobile devices, 16.3% (61/375) did not own one, and 9.1% (34/375) only used a personal computer (PC). About half of the patients rated their usability skills as very good and good (18.9% 71/375; 35.2% 132/375), 23.5% (88/375) described their skills as intermediate, and 14.4% (54/375) as bad. Of all patients, 182 (48.5%, 182/375) were willing to send data to their treating clinic via an app, that is, to a server (61.0% 111/182) or as email (33.5%, 61/182). About two-thirds (68.7%, 125/182) believed that additional and regularly sent data would be an ideal complement to the standard follow-up procedure. Additionally, 86.8% (158/182) wished to be contacted by a physician when entered data showed irregularities. Because of lack of skills (34.4%, 56/163), concerns about the use of data (35.0%, 57/163), lack of capable devices (25.8%, 42/163), and the wish for personal contact with the treating physician (47.2%, 77/163), a total of 163 (43.5%, 163/375) patients refused to use an app. Pearson correlation showed a significant but mild relationship between age and app use (P=.03, r=−.12), favoring younger age; male gender correlated as well (P=.04; r=−.11).

Conclusions

The results show that the introduction of mobile apps needs to follow different strategies depending on the patients’ attitude. Age and gender seem to be the strongest predictive factors. For oncology patients, our survey showed that about half of the patients were willing to send data via an app supporting their treatment. In the future, clinical data such as quality of life and treatment satisfaction recorded by mobile health (mHealth) devices could be used to evaluate and improve therapy workflow. Furthermore, apps could support classical visits, document adverse effects, and remind patients of treatment dates or drug intake.

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This article is from the free online course:

Digital Health for Cancer Management: Smart Health Technologies in Complex Diseases

Taipei Medical University