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While a number of mobile apps allow patients to monitor their health few have been designed to adapt their recommendations according to cancer patients' highly individualised needs. Mikael Metthey developed the Careviz app to improve support for cancer patients.

People undergoing cancer treatment, or who are living with the illness, become heavily reliant on doctors or nurses for information - usually during chemotherapy sessions or check-ups. While many patients would benefit from having greater control over their treatment, the reality is that they often feel disempowered.

Cancer can also be a very isolating illness, with many patients finding it difficult to communicate and to stay connected with their loved ones. To access information, advice and support groups, people living with cancer typically rely on the internet to find support and services, which are often fragmented.

Growing need for digital health-focused services

Metthey believes the need for digital health-focused services grew during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has catalysed his motivation to continue to improve the Careviz app, which he sees a greater need for while providing a product that users really value.

"Although there is a lot of uncertainty about the future, we believe our work is beneficial to the community and will be a valuable component to finding new ways to support patients online," he says.

Collaborating with SBI

SBI's SimDH Programme partnered with Careviz to research how its mobile app can be further developed to support the "interactive health literacy" of users to better prepare for and manage consultations with their health care providers.

SimDH provided a scoping review of the literature, a qualitative study and also interviewed oncology health professionals working at a London hospital, who represent the diverse professionals involved in the patient pathway (oncologist, therapeutic radiographer, clinical nurse specialist, oncology information specialist and brachytherapy specialist).

The findings were presented to Careviz in a 28-page report, enabling Careviz to improve the app for cancer patients and adopt validated processes for any further market research.

Navigating Covid-19 challenges

Careviz provided LSBU with useful background information about the app as well as findings they had generated from their own literature review and user surveys, and originally wanted to include a user sample within the study of users of the app, facilitated by Careviz. However, challenges introduced by the pandemic meant a new approach had to found. LSBU instead focused the study on a health professional sample, a perspective which Careviz did not have access to.

Data analysis during the project identified several themes, including an understanding that patient information needs differ and require specialised, or personalised, approaches and also that patient information needs to be accurate, credible and professionally validated.

The themes confirmed the potential of the app to increase knowledge and a sense of empowerment amongst patients and that information provided via an app needs to respond to the complex and specific needs of each cancer patient.

Focus areas for Careviz going forward

It was noted that simple and well categorised information that is relevant, up to date and from a reliable source was important, while symptom trackers are highly valued and can contribute to self-management of care and can help in the communication between patients and health professionals.

The results revealed the Careviz app required further development and the developer has identified three areas of focus going forward:

  • Patient information needs differ and require a specialised/personalised approach
  • Communication opportunities and needs
  • Self-management and decision making.

According to Dr Susie Sykes and Dr Adele Stewart-Lord, who collaborated with Careviz, the data collection within qualitative research is “always a privilege and offers an opportunity to listen to people talk, in depth, about their own views and experiences of something they care about."

“When conducted in an anonymous and safe space views are shared that show passion and insight into the solving of real-world practice based problems. This is always exciting.”

Contributing to the health literacy field

The study’s findings have added to an existing and growing body of research around health literacy generated by the Population Health and Prevention Research Group within the Institute of Health and Social Care at LSBU.

The project with Careviz has led to the opportunity to develop the research skills of early career researchers (ECRs) within the institute. A team of four ECRs were closely involved in data analysis alongside Sykes and Stewart-Lord, allowing for a more rigorous analysis process while giving the ECRs the opportunity to develop their qualitative analysis skills.

Are you looking for support ensuring that your innovation meets the needs of its target audience? Find out more about SimDH here.

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