Cancer patients know there will be good days and bad days while undergoing chemotherapy, but rarely can they identify what they can do to have the good days outnumber the bad.
It was this premise that spawned the idea for chemoWave, a newly developed mobile app that allows cancer patients to track personal health data between chemotherapy sessions such as overall well-being, energy levels, and medications taken to identify trends in their health to better manage, and even eliminate, side effects that can occur during treatment. The app analyzes user data to create trend lines for various metrics, such as activity levels, that patients can view at a glance and share with their oncologist during an office visit.
Since the app’s launch in July, more than 2,300 users have opened chemoWave accounts. To access the app a user must create an account and submit information about their diagnosis, says Treatment Technologies & Insights LLC, which produces the app. Patients can download the app for free from the Apple store.
“Recent research from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists shows that cancer patients that track their symptoms can improve their quality of life and survival rates, and reduce emergency room visits,” says Matt Lashey, creator of chemoWave and CEO of Treatment Technologies & Insights. “ChemoWave was created as a way for patients to find patterns in the data about their condition and symptoms to pinpoint the source of issues, and what can help them improve treatment outcomes.”
Lashey’s inspiration for chemoWave grew out of a desire to help his partner improve his quality of life while undergoing chemotherapy. A data analyst by profession, Lashey discussed with his partner’s oncologist the idea of tracking metrics around his partner’s health while undergoing chemotherapy as a way to lessen the side effects of the drug. The doctor agreed that doing so could yield valuable information and the first incarnation of chemoWave was born.
Sharing the information Lashey gathered with his partner’s oncologist prompted the doctor to prescribe a change in nausea medication to alleviate constipation and raising fluid intake to prevent dehydration. “Initially we tracked everything we could think of, but that’s the premise behind big data, that patterns can be found within even the most seemingly insignificant pieces of data,” Lashey says.
The metrics tracked by the app have since been refined based on feedback from other cancer patients and members of the medical community, Lashey says.
Patients using chemoWave can enter treatment protocols including medication schedules, doctor visits, and treatment sessions. Other metrics include mood swings, pain, exercise, meals, entertainment and sleep.
Users can also take surveys to see how their answer compares to answers from other chemoWave users, as well as insights based on the responses to each question.
“If the question is ‘has Nausea prevented you from completing daily tasks over the past 7 days?’, as a data analyst, I can go into the database to see if there are common themes among patients that answer yes versus no, and then provide a relevant insight based on the aggregated community’s answers,” says Lashey. “The more information our users provide, the more accurate and statistically significant our algorithms and predictive analysts will become.”
Looking ahead, Treatment Technologies & Insights plans to provide users with insights on how a patient’s experiences or behaviors compare to other users with a similar profile. For example, a patient entering 45 minutes of exercise for a week may see she logged 15 minutes more than the average exercise time for patients matching her profile. These enhancements will be included in the next version of the app, Lashey says. The company also plans to release a version of chemoWave for Android phones in the future.
Since the launch of chemoWave, which was self-funded, Lashey says he has heard from patients using the app to track symptoms associated with such conditions as Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. That feedback has prompted Treatment Technologies & Insights to consider launching custom versions of the app for patients with diseases and conditions other than cancer. Potential use of the technology in medical research is also being explored. Such future endeavors would likely be a pathway to generating a revenue stream, which the company currently does not have, Lashey says.