The MyPal team at Hannover Medical School discuss their experiences of conducting the child study and their institution’s contribution to the project.

The implementation of novel technology that could create new insights and pathways into childhood palliative care and the treatment of children with cancer is one of the current challenges in clinical research. The Hannover Medical School (MHH) has therefore welcomed the innovative MyPal4Kids Project as a way of addressing this challenge.

As one of three clinical sites, MHH has not only been involved in the planning of the MyPal4Kids study, but has also served as an ‘executive arm’ for the implementation and application of all scientific and technical designing beforehand. These undertakings are necessary for the realization of the study in itself and give insights into the feasibility and adequacy of using such technologies in the clinical setting. Ultimately, at the MHH, we test these novel technologies under real-life clinical conditions.

Encouraged by the enthusiasm to provide new resources for families affected by such serious conditions, and the colleagues who treat them, ever since recruiting our first patient in January 2020 we have been quite successful in finding families willing to participate. When presenting the details of the study, many families recognize the relevance and meaningfulness of the project and show a relatively high openness to participate and try both MyPal4Kids apps, despite the difficult circumstances they find themselves in. Much to our advantage, the receptiveness of the families at the MHH has been facilitated by the fact that overall technology use among the pediatric cancer patients at our clinical site is relatively high.

We would like to emphasise the great value of the collected MyPal ePROs in daily clinical routine. Via the app’s symptom checklist and diary function, we have been able to extract additional diagnostic information for some patients that otherwise would have remained undetected. Using the reported information available on the MyPal platform, and after follow-up conversations with the patients and attending physicians, we were able to undertake the necessary diagnostic procedures. Such experiences with MyPal have been very encouraging and are living proof that digital health approaches could help to empower patients and become a reliable means for them to communicate with their health care professionals (HCP); all of which could translate into improved clinical outcomes.

Another important aspect of our work has been the dissemination of the MyPal project amongst HCPs. In order to spread the word, we have not only set up a MyPal-MHH website in German, but also promoted the project on social media like the MHH Instagram page. At the clinic for pediatric hematology and oncology, weekly internal trainings and research projects updates are offered to a spectrum of HCPs, including physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers and other caregivers. We have had the opportunity to present the MyPal Project on several occasions, including to other departments that are involved in telemonitoring research. Most HCPs have a positive attitude about the use of digital health solutions as an additional resource to support oncological medical care. Nonetheless, there are still many technical and organizational impediments that need to be addressed before such technologies can be implemented routinely. However, we are certain that the MyPal Project has contributed to start paving the way in this direction in our institution.

Lastly, we would like to highlight that our achievements so far have been, in part, the result of dedicated multi-professional teamwork of the two physicians, the clinical psychologist and the study nurse that comprise the MHH MyPal team. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges that it brings, we are overall committed to keep up the recruitment trend, find ways to optimize patient engagement and continue facilitating meaningful interactions and discussions with the participating families. We will also continue with the dissemination of the MyPal Project amongst colleagues and those interested; and we will keep up our conscientious efforts and our positive attitude to bring the MyPal Project to a successful outcome.