Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
I am a paediatric haematology-oncology consultant at the department of paediatric haematology-oncology at Hannover Medical School. About 90 children and adolescents with newly diagnosed malignancies are treated and followed up at our institution every year. Hannover Medical School is a tertiary centre with a large catchment area and has a special focus on cancer treatment and transplantation medicine. Although cure rates in paediatric oncology have increased strongly within the last 20 years the question of how best to support children who’s cancer can unfortunately not be cured has been a concern to me after some crucial experiences during my early oncology training. While currently palliative home care is an established standard of care in Germany, this was not the case previously. But home is the place where most children want to be in this situation.
Can you tell us about your current work/research?
My clinical work in the outpatient clinic includes consultations with patients having maintenance therapy and aftercare with special emphasis on early detection not only of relapses, but also of late effects of the oncology treatment. In this context, I am also putting effort into building up a special multi-professional adolescent and young adult long term follow-up consultation. My second core area is the paediatric palliative care team. It was established in 2009 to offer children with cancer and their families support by a specialised paediatric palliative home care service covering a radius of about 100 km around our hospital. Over the last few years, we have established a paediatric palliative care network including multiple hospital paediatric care services, psycho-social team and spiritual care team as well as ambulatory hospice team volunteers. Since 2010 the palliative home care service has been open to any family with a child that has been diagnosed with a life-limiting disease.
In addition, I am involved in research on the development and evaluation of a multi-modular long-term follow-up concept for adolescents and young adults after childhood cancer and on paediatric palliative care in oncology.
How did you get involved with MyPal?
I have been asked to join the MyPal Team as head of the paediatric palliative care team of my institution with longstanding experience in paediatric palliative care and oncology.
What is your role on the MyPal project?
As a paediatrician I have been involved in the development of the MyPal paediatric ePRO tool and its implementation in the clinical study MyPal4Kids. Our department is one of three clinical study sites of this study.
As a clinician, what do you think about the potential that digital technologies offer to improve patient care?
Digital technologies offer a big potential to improve patient care by facilitating communication between patients and care teams over big distances. Since the beginning of the Corona pandemic we have witnessed how important and helpful digital solutions can be (e.g. with online consultation) to overcome distances.
What are the main challenges you think the MyPal project faces?
The project is now entering the clinical study phase to evaluate the tools that we have developed, which is already a big achievement. The next challenges will be to get clinicians and patients at our institutions to use these tools and take part in the clinical studies in order to evaluate their use in clinical practice and their potential to impact on patient care.
What are your hopes for the project?
I hope that the project will be the starting point for the implementation of digital health tools that may help to improve the quality of life of children with cancer and their families by offering new communication and information modalities in the daily practice of paediatric oncology.
Dr Annette Sander
Principal Investigator, Hannover Medical School, Germany