Resource guide points cancer patients to digital coping tools

The nonprofit eHealth Initiative (eHI) has issued a guide to the digital tools and technologies available to help cancer patients and their families deal with diagnosis of the disease.

The Health IT Cancer Resources Guide grew out of the organization's Issue Brief on eHealth Tools and Cancer Care, review of 124 articles on how telemedicine, mobile health, Internet-based technologies and social media are being used to treat cancer.

The guide lists 76 tools including mobile applications, websites and social networks to help those affected by cancer understand the condition, make informed treatment decisions, anticipate care needs, and connect with others who have had similar experiences, according to an announcement.

The tools are organized under five topics: decision-making, education, information and treatment management, social support and lifestyle management.

The website, for instance, provides information from pathologists on 40 of the most common cancers and cancer-related conditions. The social network Pink-Link allows breast cancer patients to connect. The Sunwise UV Index app from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides daily and hourly National Weather Service forecasts of UV radiation levels.

"The breadth [of the guide] is matched by the quality of these resources," Peter Yu, incoming president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2014, is quoted as saying. "As our country's demographics evolve to an older population, at greater risk for cancer, but at the same time more digitally sophisticated, this work sets us on a forward path that leads to greater patient engagement in their own health decisions."

The nonprofit, dedicated to using technology to drive improvements in quality, safety and efficiency recently took similar looks at technology to manage diabetes and heart disease. The report on diabetes found, however, that while mobile tools are proliferating, existing research hasn't pinpointed what patients want or like in mobile health tools, or whether they find the tools easy to use.

Separately, a new text messaging program called PROST8CARE delivers information to prostate cancer patients to help them deal with the effects of chemotherapy. And in October 2012, the McKesson Foundation awarded a research grant to the Center for Connected Health in Boston to develop a text messaging program to improve pain management in cancer patients.

To learn more:
- find the resources guide
- read the cancer issues brief
- here's the announcement
- check out the heart disease issues brief (fee)

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