Big opportunity in cancer care for mHealth, but patients must drive it forward

Mobile healthcare technologies have an opportunity to contribute to cancer supportive care, but as of now are primarily patient-driven and limited in use and scope, according to a new paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

One reason is that patients have what researchers describe as an "enhanced role," when it comes to care processes. Creating new models of care that integrate caregiver and patient involvement will require both to embrace and adopt mobile technologies, according to researchers who assessed and reviewed 106 pieces of literature regarding the use of mHealth in cancer care and cancer supportive care.

"There is scant literature concerning the use of mHealth in cancer supportive care," the research paper states, with mHealth used mostly for patient self-management activities via a smartphone or tablet.

While remote monitoring technology also plays an important role, telehealth technology is rarely used in cancer processes, the authors say.

"Text messaging technologies [short message service, SMS] have a minor role, with the exception of middle income countries where text messaging plays a major role," the authors say. "If we look at the different stages of healthcare processes, we can see that mHealth is mainly used during the treatment of patients, especially for self-management activities. It is also used for prevention and diagnosis, although to a lesser extent, whereas it appears rarely used for decision-making and follow-up activities."

As FierceMobileHealthcare reported earlier this month, a new report, from The Economist Intelligent Unit indicates that now is the time for mobile healthcare technology to move forward. The report surveyed 144 healthcare leaders working in public and private healthcare across a spectrum of healthcare industries, and predicts that consumers will drive mHealth efforts forward.

The same view is held by Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in San Diego. Topol has predicted that today's medical practice and overall healthcare industry will undergo a radical transformation in the next five years as mobile devices become more mHealth-friendly.

Yet at this stage, according to the JMIR study, mHealth is being tapped on a limited basis and in limited phases of the care process, researchers say; it is unlikely to truly contribute to the development of new care models, the add.

"Instead, there should be a higher degree of pervasiveness at all stages and in all health care delivery activities," the researchers say.

For more information:
- read the study

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