By Sergey Ivanov
Cancer continues to be a major health threat worldwide: In 2020 alone, 19.3 million people fell victim to this disease group, according to a joint study by researchers from Taiwan and Vietnam. Decades ago, doctors and researchers were primarily focused on saving the lives of oncology patients, but nowadays, as effective treatments have been discovered, providers can dedicate more of their efforts to improving patients’ quality of life. Medication effects, psychological well-being, and lifestyle changes are the main factors determining how treatments will influence patients’ perception of their quality of life, and the digitalization of healthcare positively influences each of them.
In particular, the development of smart medical device software involved in drug research, treatment delivery, remote diagnostics, and health management has improved patients’ experience in multiple areas of oncology care. What’s more, in addition to making medical devices more effective, applications that impact patients’ health can now qualify as medical devices. Such software as a medical device (SaMD) is certified within the same standards as physical gadgets to be safe and effective for patients.
Now, let’s take a look at how medical software solutions help make cancer patients’ lives better.
Reduced visits to the hospital
Hospital visits take a psychological toll on oncology patients, forcing them to relive the anxiety of getting a diagnosis and undergoing unpleasant procedures during a checkup. Hospital environments are also dangerous to patients with weakened immune systems, and the trip to the doctor’s office itself can drain the energy from an already exhausted patient.
Gadgets that can monitor patients’ vitals or help them undergo treatment from home can relieve the stress of frequent hospital visits. Medical device software ensures that data about patient conditions is reliable and transferred securely in real time to systems that store, analyze, and present it to healthcare professionals. Moreover, with SaMD applications that alert healthcare staff or caregivers to unusual condition changes, staying at home has become possible for patients who would be otherwise hospitalized.
Safer and more comfortable hospitals
Often hospital visits cannot be avoided, as the majority of medical procedures involve special equipment or medical personnel, while some conditions require constant observation that’s impossible at home. Air quality, temperature, and bacterial load monitoring devices are valuable in such cases because most cancer patients have weakened immune systems or co-occurring health problems and need to be protected from contracting additional diseases at the hospital. Additionally, medical devices powered by intelligent software enable less invasive diagnostic and treatment procedures, making hospital stays more comfortable.
Reclaimed sense of control
A cancer diagnosis can leave many patients feeling powerless, which negatively impacts their mental health and the ability to make the best decisions about their treatment. SaMD applications like Prosoma’s Living Well app educate patients about their conditions and help them to manage related stress and negative emotions. When patients gain confidence in their own health management, they start engaging more in treatment and can choose the best-fitting therapy for themselves.
Quicker symptom alleviation with fewer side effects
Symptoms triggered by cancer itself or from side effects of treatment have a tremendous negative impact on a patient’s quality of life. While drugs with fewer adverse effects are being developed every day, smart medical devices can provide additional ways to make patients’ experiences better during the course of cancer treatment:
Medication delivery management. Oncology patients have to receive medication at specific times and in exact quantities. Disruption of the treatment plan can aggravate their symptoms or lead to the development of side effects and related conditions. Medical device software that powers smart pumps, inhalers, and other gadgets for treatment delivery ensures that patients receive their exact drug dosage when needed. Some are triggered by the time of day, others by readings from patient monitoring devices. Though SaMD applications cannot deliver treatment itself, they are very useful in reminding patients, caregivers, or medical personnel about the treatment schedule and dosages. Such applications are especially valuable because they can run on ubiquitous electronics like smartphones or tablets, allowing patients to always stay within reach of the reminders.
Overall wellness improvements. Drugs aren’t the sole factor influencing the gravity of patients’ symptoms or their psychological reaction to those symptoms. For any treatment to achieve the best results, patients should adhere to the lifestyle appropriate to their condition. Smart devices equipped with medical software help patients change their lifestyles according to their health conditions, adopt more therapeutic routines, and support patients’ mental health. Software types that enable gadgets to become a part of patients’ support include specialized wellness apps, mental health support chatbots, and telemedicine systems that facilitate patient-provider contact.
Even though cancer is more curable than in the past, the diagnosis still weighs heavily on patients. Healthcare providers have an obligation to not only cure oncology patients, but to make their treatment journey safer and more comfortable, ensuring good quality of life. Medical devices powered by software can handle many procedures that were previously done exclusively in hospitals, making patients’ and doctors’ lives easier and turning hospitals into safer places for patients with special conditions.
It is also worth mentioning that medical devices are a source of education and psychological support for people with a cancer diagnosis. Patients agree that such supporting apps add clarity to their diagnosis, give them tools to manage their health without depending on their care provider all the time, prepare them for possible care outcomes, and help manage their mental state. When combined, all of the above can impact the way cancer patients view their lives and improve their chances of having good quality of life post-treatment.
Sergey Ivanov is head of the healthcare solutions department at iTransition.