cancer patient hospital

Cancer patient wellbeing tracked via smartphone sensors and app

Scientists have developed software designed to run on smartphones that tracks the wellbeing of cancer patients based on the device’s sensors.

It should allow doctors to keep a closer eye on patients receiving chemotherapy that are often in a vulnerable state of health.

The app uses an algorithm to detect worsening symptoms based on objective changes in patient behaviour, according to the University of Pittsburgh study.

The advantage of such a system is that it can run on smartphones that patients are likely to already own and use.

Real-time estimation of symptoms and side effects could provide an opportunity for doctors to intervene earlier between clinic visits, preventing unnecessary physician or hospital visits and improving patient quality of life.

The study enrolled 14 patients who were undergoing chemotherapy treatment for gastrointestinal cancer at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

They were asked to carry a smartphone for four weeks as they went about their daily lives.

Smartphone software developed by the researchers passively and continuously collected data on behaviour patterns, such as the number of calls or texts sent and received, smartphone apps used, and the movement and location of the phone.

As part of the study, the patients were asked to rate the severity of 12 common symptoms, such as fatigue and nausea, at least once a day.

They would classify each day as either a “higher-than-average burden,” “average burden,” or “low burden” day.

Researchers then used the data collected from the smartphone to develop an algorithm that could identify and correlate the patient’s “high-symptom,” “average-symptom” and “low-symptom” days with 88 per cent accuracy.

“We found that on days when the patients reported worse-than-average symptoms, they tended to spend more time being sedentary, moved the phone more slowly and spent more minutes using apps on the phone,” said assistant professor Carissa Low, lead author of the study.

“Collecting these objective behavioural measures from smartphone sensors requires no additional effort from patients and they could prove beneficial for long-term monitoring of those undergoing arduous cancer treatments or those with other chronic illnesses.”

The researchers are conducting follow-up studies to determine whether the same passive sensing approach can be used to identify complications following cancer surgery. They also are working with health care providers to understand how to integrate this data into the workflow of clinical care.

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