Study led by UHSussex consultant shows new technology enabled service could improve care for thousands of cancer patients

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A study led by Dr Ollie Minton (pictured above), Consultant in Palliative Medicine and Clinical Director for Cancer at University Hospitals Sussex, has revealed that patients with treatable but not curable cancers who regularly track their symptoms via their smartphone or tablet using web app My Clinical Outcomes, are less likely to be admitted to hospital and have shorter stays in hospital, improving their quality of life.

In the year-long trial, patients from Royal Sussex County Hospital were prompted every two weeks by email to complete a short online questionnaire using a webapp My Clinical Outcomes from the comfort of their own home, asking them about their condition and how they were feeling.

The clinical team then monitored the scores and if they identified any changes in symptoms, they directed them to the appropriate teams which reduced emergency or unplanned admissions.  

Dr Ollie Minton, who led the study, said: “Too often, patients feel like passengers on their own treatment journey, and we know that during routine appointments, only half of treatment and disease related issues get reported. By putting patients in the driving seat, at the centre of their own care, allowing them to remotely track and report their symptoms more frequently, and combining that with specialist, supportive care services – we were able to spot and tackle issues more quickly and this in turn improved their quality of life and reduced their need for emergency care, which saved the NHS money.”

Keith Lanaway, age 69 from East Grinstead, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2019 and has been using the digital platform to log his symptoms from home. 

He said: “It is very easy and quick to use, not complex, takes five minutes every fortnight and was comforting to know everything was being logged.  I am one hour away from the hospital, so it cuts down on the worry. It is reassuring that if things change in between your appointments or you exhibit symptoms that indicate things could be getting worse, it will be flagged to the team and measures will be put in place.”

Dr Tim Williams, founder of My Clinical Outcomes, said: “People find it hard to believe that such simple, easy to use, tech, can make such a difference to patients’ lives and in oncology, increase life expectancy to a level which is on par with cutting edge drugs in cancer, without the side effects. These findings have come at a time when the NHS could not be in more need of proven innovative, cost savings solutions that bring life enhancing and life prolonging benefits to patients.”

Dr David Bloomfield, Consultant Oncologist and Chairman of the Sussex Cancer Fund said: “Due to the sheer volume of patients seen every year, hospitals tend to only track process-driven outcomes that are easy to measure, such as waiting times, length of stay and avoidable complications. While these are important, they do not capture the impact of disease on patients’ lives, and the success or otherwise of treatment, particularly as these measurements tend to end when patients leave the hospital. From the patient perspective, it can also take a huge amount of effort to arrange regular calls or appointments with a specialist, particularly if they are unwell following treatment, meaning symptoms sometimes go unreported.

“By providing a user-friendly, web-based platform, patients are more likely to accurately record how they are feeling – information that doctors can see instantly so they can decide whether they need to check in on a patient. It also means doctors can analyse patient data to assist with treatment and see if therapies are having a benefit. What is more, it provides system level data – for example an analysis showed one of the most significant concerns was fatigue, indicating the need for new targeted support for patients”.

The learning from the study is now informing the Sussex shared care record (Plexus) which will make it easier for patients to share information with their clinicians and for health professionals to access this information.