JAN 09, 2021 7:18 AM PST

Automated system provides guidance for cancer patients' symptoms

A new computer system called eRAPID has been debuted in a UK trial to test out how it can assist cancer patients in managing symptoms. The system, designed by the University of Leeds, was developed to offer guidance to cancer patients so as to ameliorate their wellbeing.

The online eHealth system was tested by early-stage colorectal, breast, and gynecological cancer patients who were able to update their symptoms into eRAPID and receive automated severity-dependent advice, which either suggests ways to manage the symptoms or recommends patients to seek medical assistance. Such an automated system is beneficial in that it can decrease clinicians’ workload by answering commonly asked questions without patients requiring direct contact with physicians.

The trial evaluated the impact of the eRAPID system by analyzing how it improved symptom control, healthcare use, patient self-efficacy, and quality of life (QOL). The results showed that patients reported better symptom control and physical wellbeing in the early weeks of treatment, with the system preventing symptom deterioration in about 9% of patients after 12 weeks. Overall, patients also reported more confidence in managing their health.

"Rising numbers of cancer patients are receiving a range of anti-cancer treatments which means patients are living longer and require longer periods of care and monitoring,” commented Program lead Professor Galina Velikova, at the Leeds Institute of Medical Research at St James's. "Remote online monitoring options have the potential to be a patient-centered, safe, and effective approach to support patients during cancer treatment and manage the growing clinical workload for cancer care."

Photo: Pexels

Dr. Kate Absolom adds that this trial is extremely needed considering the limitations that the pandemic have put on in-person healthcare: "The encouraging results from this study will help pave the way for future development and refinement of these interventions in broader cancer settings. The COVID19 pandemic highlighted the need and speeded a shift towards technology-enabled care, so these study results are very timely."

It can often be difficult for cancer patients to know what symptoms are normal and expected when undergoing treatment versus what symptoms are dangerous and require medical attention. The trial showed that the electronic system increased patient confidence in managing their mild and moderate treatment-related symptoms and did not compromise patient safety or treatment delivery.

Sources: Journal of Clinical Oncology, Eureka Alert

About the Author
BA Environmental Studies
Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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