When a there’s a cancer diagnosis, the family faces substantial stress and shock. The acute phase of treatment—when children are in the hospital and often undergo intensive surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy—is especially distressing for parents and caregivers. Any parent struggles with how to cope with the complex and unfamiliar details of cancer treatment, including doses, medications, blood counts, and scheduling.
In a 2012 survey of our constituents, almost 85% of respondents said if a mobile application had been available, they would have used it to track their child’s treatment. However, fewer than 15% said that they found a functional mobile application that helped them manage any aspect of their child’s treatment.
Studies show that disease management apps can play a crucial role in helping families and patients cope with illness and communicate with their healthcare professionals. Self-management apps can also empower families by providing information and skills that enable them to manage the challenges of treatment. Recent research on apps for managing diabetes and chronic pain have shown that when patients take on greater responsibility for their own care, their treatment outcomes improve and they report better health overall. Chemotherapy and medication schedules can be incredibly complex, and parents need a convenient and accurate way to monitor their child’s treatment, blood counts, and any related side effects. For young adults, who are at a higher risk of relapse than younger patients because of poorer adherence to treatment schedules, an app that tracks medication schedules could improve overall treatment outcomes. In addition, an app could help families communicate reliably with their health care professionals about side effects like nausea, migraines, or pain, so treatment and dosages can be adjusted to ease harsh side effects. Early studies show that when patients have access to tools with a range of monitoring and tracking functions, these patients adhere to treatment better and have improved clinical outcomes.
There was no comprehensive mobile application designed for families of children with cancer. The medical application market can be broken down into two camps: applications that provide education, and applications that track symptoms and medication. No application provides both resources and healthcare management. Further, there is no application specifically for pediatric cancer, even though over 40,000 children are treated for cancer each year. While some generic medical mobile applications are available for a fee, they are not designed for families of children with cancer and they are poorly suited for the demands of a major illness. Further, most of the medical apps currently on the marketplace were developed without input from a medical professional and provide only basic tracking of health histories and doctors’ appointments. When families face a major illness like cancer, they need far more complex resources for tracking and education. Our organization aims to fill this need and provide a free, comprehensive mobile application that will provide education, resources, tracking, and management.