Our colleagues at University Hospital Brno share their experiences of using the MyPal app with adult patients.

Can you tell us a bit about the role of your team (and institution) in the MyPal project?

Our institution is the largest facility dealing with haematologic patients in the Czech Republic. We provide care for adult patients with a full range of haematological diseases including very rare disorders. Our clinic sees 60 patients newly diagnosed with CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukaemia), and approximately 30 diagnosed with MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome), per year.

Within the MyPal project we are responsible for approaching patients that meet the study criteria and recruiting them in case they show an interest in the study. Our feedback from the testing phase also helped make the MyPal platform more functional and user-friendly.

What are the experiences of your team (and institution) in general when it comes to using apps in cancer care?

To be honest, our experience is very limited. We use our databases and other systems on a daily basis, but so far, no application or e-health platform has been tested in our hospital. We wanted to be part of this prestigious international project and support the recruitment of patients by enrolling them into the study. We want our patients to have the best care available, thus, the idea of monitoring their health through advanced online methods seemed appealing to our team.

What do you see as the main benefits, and what are some of the challenges that arise with app implementation in palliative care? What have patient responses to the MyPal app been like?

The main benefits could be detecting the unmet needs a patient might have, as they might be overlooked during the busy routine operation in our clinical practice. There are many challenges when you start to introduce health technologies. Haematological malignancies are not a common disease, and they are usually diagnosed in older people. Many older patients, however keen on sharing their medical information and symptoms with their healthcare team, are not able to use a smartphone, simply because they do not have one. Our clinic purchased tablet devices for these patients so they are able to join the study, but it seems that some were unwilling to learn something new, and they find the modern world of technology tiresome and confusing. They very much prefer to talk to the healthcare professionals face to face or on the phone.

Another fact is that patients with CLL, even after some form of treatment, can often show almost no symptoms when in remission, and since they feel fine, they do not feel the need to report anything. The application would only remind the patients of their illness, which at this time, doesn´t seem to have any considerable impact on their lives. To us clinicians personally, the possibility of patients reporting individual symptoms seems useful.

What are your hopes for the future of the MyPal project, and its potential impact on the use of apps in cancer and palliative care (both in your institution and more broadly)?

We all know that this century is a century of digital technologies, so surely any ways of making our patients’ lives easier are welcome. If this application could limit the frequency of hospital visits, it could be beneficial for the patient, since some patients have to travel from far away, as well as for the clinician, who would have more time to deal with more severely ill patients. To conclude, as a way of remote observation for patients with milder forms of disease, it could be useful for the future to detect any sort of progression. Still, a personal meeting and seeing the patient in the clinic office is irreplaceable.