Smartphones can do just about anything, which led to the half-serious joke that “there’s an app for everything.”
Managing your mesothelioma symptoms? Yes, there’s apparently an app for that, too.
Researchers in the United Kingdom developed the Advanced Symptom Management System, shortened to ASyMS, to monitor cancer-related symptoms and improve quality of life. They recently altered the app and tested it specifically for tracking mesothelioma symptoms.
The adjusted app, called ASyMSmeso, was piloted among 18 mesothelioma patients for 2-3 months. They completed daily symptom questionnaires during the study and conducted interviews regarding their experiences. Health professionals also provided feedback on the app’s effectiveness.
The results were overwhelmingly positive, a sign that ASyMSmeso or another symptom-management app is needed for people with mesothelioma. While the app is not yet ready for widespread use, this study offers hope that such technology is coming soon.
How Patients and Doctors Used ASyMSmeso
A primary issue with mesothelioma is monitoring symptoms. Each person’s cancer is different, meaning some symptoms may manifest for some earlier than others. Some symptoms might be far more severe in some cases than others.
Part of the struggle is knowing what to expect — and how to react.
What should a patient do if they suddenly feel severe chest pain a few days after a doctor’s office visit, with the next one still weeks away? What if they start experiencing shortness of breath that makes breathing difficult, impacting their quality of life?
Do other mesothelioma symptoms — excessive weight loss, fatigue, nausea, sweating or coughing — mean the cancer has worsened and requires immediate action? Are they pressing enough to call their doctor? Is there a way the patient can handle the symptoms and discomfort on their own?
Monitoring and managing symptoms can cause a lot of anxiety for patients. These fears can be debilitating if not addressed. ASyMSmeso seemed to fill the gap between doctor’s office visits, providing a soothing source of information for patients.
Patients reported their symptoms at least once a day, along with any time they felt unwell. Any sign or combination of signs that met the algorithms’ predetermined conditions would alert the doctor’s corresponding mobile phone.
Health professionals then viewed the patient’s symptom alert report and daily symptom questionnaire on the web-based dashboard before responding either by telephone call or text message. The entire process took no more than 24 hours.
“For symptoms that could be self-managed by the patient, the health professional was able to offer self-care advice,” the report states.
Why Monitoring Mesothelioma Symptoms on Mobile Devices Can Help
The participants completed the daily symptom questionnaires nearly 90% of the time. They also completed almost all other assessments for the study.
The researchers noted no change in symptom-related quality of life from the beginning of app use to end. They noted “significant improvements” in quality of life based on The Sheffield Profile for Assessment and Referral for Care (SPARC), which assesses the patients’ independence and activity, psychological issues, and communication effectiveness with others.
Patients also reported higher “usefulness” for the technology by the end of the three months.
“End-of-study interviews identified that both patients and clinicians found the system quick and easy to use,” the report stated.
Researchers noted that patients felt reassured about their symptoms and experiences. Notably, they felt the app provided an improved feeling of comfort.
“I think what was good was the fact that you always felt that there was somebody else at the other end of the line who was listening to what you were saying,” one patient said, according to the study’s final report.
Medical professionals praised the app for early management of symptoms and heightened communication between them and their patients. They also noticed some signs earlier thanks to the app.
“I think for the patients, it may mean that they don’t have to make that phone call,” one health professional said in the report. “Because they just do it on the device and it goes through. … I think ultimately that is generally a better thing, if they can let us know what is going on sooner rather than later.”
Sources & Author
- Advanced Symptom Management System for Patients with Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma (ASyMSmeso): Mixed Methods Study. Journal of Medical Internet Research. Retrieved from: https://www.jmir.org/2020/11/e19180/. Accessed: 11/17/2020.
Sources & Author