Center for Connected Health gets McKesson grant for mobile cancer program

By Mike Miliard
09:23 AM

The Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners HealthCare has been awarded a research grant from the McKesson Foundation to develop a text messaging and voice response program to improve pain management in cancer patients.

The research will focus on improving clinical outcomes in pain management and decreasing hospitalization, officials say. The McKesson Foundation's Mobilizing for Health initiative seeks to improve health outcomes among underserved patients with chronic diseases using mHealth technologies with a track record of success.

This randomized, controlled study will be based on a comprehensive and multi-modal approach as recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) clinical practice guidelines for treatment of adult cancer pain, say Center for Connected Health officials. Combining text messaging with interactive voice response (IVR) technology, the study will collect self-reported pain assessments to monitor a patient's pain levels and its impact on daily life, and provide tailored, multi-dimensional and supportive feedback.

"We believe this will be the first-of-its-kind mobile health program to support pain management for cancer patients, incorporating evidence-based interventions with a scalable mobile platform," said Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, director of the Center for Connected Health.

Researchers will randomly assign 122 lung cancer patients with moderate to severe cancer pain to receive either mobile-based interventions or the standard practice of care. These participants will be followed four months, and interventions will be tailored to the individual patients' needs as determined by their ratings of pain intensity, interference in daily life, type and stage of cancer and type of pain therapy.
"Pain continues to be one of the most common and feared consequences of cancer," said Kamal Jethwani, MD, corporate manager for research and innovation at the Center for Connected Health, and principal investigator for this study. "There is increasing evidence for the use of interactive voice response technologies in mobile health interventions because it is low cost, convenient, reliable and effective for symptom and treatment monitoring in chronic disease management."

By combining those technologies, he added, the hope is to "decrease the intensity of cancer pain and increase our patients' quality of life, while providing education and feedback to empower and enable individuals to manage their pain better."

Since 2010, the McKesson Foundation has funded 17 mobile health research studies in the United States. This is the second grant it has awarded to the Center for Connected Health.

"The McKesson Foundation is dedicated to building the evidence base for mobile health solutions," said Carrie Varoquiers, president of the McKesson Foundation. "We are excited about the potential for using text messaging to help cancer patients and providers improve pain management among an under-served population."