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Cancer Care Ontario develops mobile apps

Ken SutcliffeTORONTO – Cancer Care Ontario has long developed expertise in protocols for treating oncology patients. More recently, it has been transferring that expertise into easy-to-access mobile apps, enabling physicians to quickly access the information they need.

Two of the most popular apps are its cancer drug formulary, which shows doctors the medications most appropriate for various cancers, and the Symptom Management Guides, an app that shows doctors the best ways of treating symptoms such as pain, dyspnea, depression, anxiety and nausea.

To date, these apps have been downloaded thousands of times – by physicians not only in Canada but in 71 countries around the world.

“The apps enable doctors to assess pain and symptoms, and give them guidelines for prescribing,” said Ken Sutcliffe (pictured), VP and CIO of Cancer Care Ontario. “We used to issue a pocketbook for this, but it wasn’t easy to flip through.” As well, a doctor might not have the pocketbook at hand when it was needed. With a mobile app, the information can be easily obtained, anywhere and anytime.

The popularity of the apps, said Sutcliffe, “reflects the reality that most of us are wandering around with phones.”

Both apps are available free of charge, and can also be used by patients and other caregivers as educational tools. Downloads are available through the cancercare.on.ca website. The systems are updated frequently – the most recent update for the symptom management guide offers new antiemetic recommendations.

In terms of platforms, the majority of users are on Apple iOS phones and tablets, followed by Android and Microsoft Windows-based devices.

CCO is a major developer of computerized systems, as it provides systems for cancer hospitals across the province. The solutions include Computerized Provider Order Entry, along with the provincial Wait Times Management System.

The IT development team at CCO consists of some 35 staff members; additional developers are brought in as needed, and the organization also works with outside vendors.

About six developers work on mobile applications, an area that is turning into one of fast growth.

CCO is now building more analytics into the drug formulary and symptom management apps, which will enable it to determine which aspects of the solutions are used most frequently.

Other mobile projects include a cervical cancer screening app. “This will include information on the appropriate time to start screening, when to stop, and when to refer the patient to a specialist,” said Sutcliffe.

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