Smartphone App Improves Management of Cancer-Related Pain, Anxiety

Artificial intelligence and mobile technology combined in a smartphone app demonstrated an ability to accurately measure and respond to urgency of patients' pain.
The following article features coverage from the 2018 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium meeting. Click here to read more of Oncology Nurse Advisor‘s conference coverage.

A study examined the use of a smartphone application, ePal, as an aid for managing cancer-related pain, with results presented at the 2018 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium.

According to the researchers, 70% to 90% of patients with advanced tumors suffer with pain, necessitating tools to help patients cope.

In this randomized, controlled trial, researchers examined the use of ePal, a smartphone application that uses artificial intelligence to determine the urgency of a patient’s pain and responds accordingly. Two cohorts of patients with metastatic, solid-organ cancer were randomized to routine care (control; 56 patients) or had ePal added to routine care (56 patients).

Cohorts were followed for 8 weeks; the ePal cohort was evaluated 3 times per week for pain using the application, and all patients completed questionnaires for comparisons at baseline and at 4 and 8 weeks. The questionnaires asked about pain, anxiety, and attitudes regarding cancer treatment. Models were adjusted for demographic factors and baseline characteristics.

Inpatient hospital admissions occurred at a 40% lower rate for ePal users than for the control cohort (P =.048) over the 8-week study period.

Anxiety levels were increased in the ePal cohort vs the control cohort (P =.015), but both pain levels (P =.034) and attitudes regarding cancer treatment (P =.042) were significantly improved with use of ePal.

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The researchers believe the ePal application is the first mobile application of this sort to use clinical algorithms and artificial intelligence to effectively reduce cancer-related pain while also lowering the frequency of inpatient hospitalizations for this patient population.

The authors concluded that the parenteral opioid shortage had a significant effect on administration of opioids to patients for treatment of cancer-related pain and that this is linked with overall poorer analgesia.

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Kamdar MM, Centi AJ, Fischer N, Jethwani K. A randomized controlled trial of a novel artificial-intelligence based smartphone application to optimize the management of cancer-related pain. J Clin Oncol. 2018;36(suppl 34). Abstract 76.

This article originally appeared on ONA