Digital service launched to help oesophageal cancer patients

A new smart phone app and web portal to help oesophageal cancer patients and their carers understand and manage their journey better has been launched today by UCL, University College London Hospital (UCLH) and digital health company, Living With.

The personalised service, which is being piloted by the NHS in London, will allow clinical nurse specialists to have more time to monitor patients’ progress, provide relevant information and improve the care they can offer.

Oesophageal (gullet) cancer is the fourth largest cause of cancer death in the UK and it has one of the highest death rates of any cancer. In London a new care pathway has been established for people with oesophageal cancer living in the north, central and east London Cancer Alliance. Surgery is performed by a single ’high volume’ specialist centre based at University College Hospital (UCH), with supportive care delivered by local hospitals.

This new pathway has shown to have better outcomes; however, it can cause problems for patients and health care staff, that the app and web portal has been designed to address. Patients often have their treatment spread between several different hospitals, which can be confusing and lead to missed appointments. It can also create more work for the Cancer Nurse Specialists (CNS), who provide expert support to cancer patients, as they need to organise treatments at different hospitals. This means they have less time to support patients’ physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs, leading to a worse patient experience.

The pilot running in Barnet Hospital aims to demonstrate that patients can be supported better and that the overall CNS workload can be reduced, enabling CNSs to focus more of their expertise on patients with the most needs. The new app and web portal does this by making it easier for CNSs to connect to, monitor, share information and improve the timeliness of their interventions with their patients. In turn patients receive accurate, reliable and easily comprehensible health information conveniently, privately, and at exactly the time they need it in relation to their specific pathway.

"I have used it every day and find it all and more than I wished for," said Lizzie Lloyd-Dehler, cancer survivor, who is the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) representative

"After 18 months of careful design and development in collaboration with a wide range of multi-disciplinary stakeholders from UCL, UCLH and Macmillan including substantive input from patients and healthcare professionals, it’s great to see Living With Oesophageal Cancer going live in a hospital. This is the fifth product on our condition management platform now in the NHS and we are looking forward to seeing the results of the pilot." Chris Robson, CEO of Living With, commented.

Professor Elizabeth Murray, Head of the Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health and Co-Director, eHealth Unit, UCL said "This is an exciting project, driven by cancer clinicians and patients, which has the potential to improve patient health outcomes and experience while reducing CNS workload and saving money for the NHS."

Professor Muntzer Mughal, Honorary Clinical Professor and Consultant UGI Surgeon, UCLH: "This is an exciting project. The product will allow patients to access information and advice tailored to their condition and access to the CNS through the App. The App will also enable the CNS and clinicians to track the progress of their patients and to interact with them with advice and information and reminders about tests and appointments."


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