Digital Health Research: Mobile phone-based intervention for data and information needs

Categories: Featured and Research.

Understanding data and information needs for palliative cancer care to target mobile phone-based intervention development in Uganda and Zimbabwe.

This project is geared to support engagement with key stakeholders in Uganda and Zimbabwe to define optimal mechanisms through which patient-level data, captured via mHealth (i.e. the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices), can be used in the development of palliative cancer care in sub-Saharan Africa. The project, funded by the UK Medical Research Council, will provide essential preliminary data to guide the development of mHealth approaches which can be piloted and evaluated through future substantive grant applications.

The objectives of the project are to:

  1. Establish a consortium of academic researchers (from Uganda, the UK and Zimbabwe), non-governmental organisations, palliative care providers, policymakers and mHealth development and implementation expertise, to catalyse mHealth research and generate evidence that can guide palliative cancer care development across sub-Saharan Africa
  2. Understand the acceptability and optimal implementation of patient-level data collection (e.g. patient-reported outcome measures and patient-reported experience measures) using mHealth approaches in Uganda and Zimbabwe through patient and caregiver engagement
  3. Determine information needs and pathways for leveraging evidence generated from mHealth approaches in service development in Uganda and Zimbabwe through health professional and service manager engagement
  4. Determine information needs and pathways for leveraging evidence generated from mHealth approaches in policymaking in Uganda and Zimbabwe through policymaker engagement
  5. Define the mechanisms for implementation of mHealth approaches to support development of palliative cancer care in SSA

These activities will provide the preliminary data needed to develop mHealth approaches and build the evidence base underpinning current palliative care provision for patients with cancer and their caregivers in Uganda and Zimbabwe initially.

At a service delivery level, mHealth approaches can support extension of limited palliative care provision, particularly for patients based in remote regions where mobile networks are available, enabling greater access to palliative care services for patients with cancer currently experiencing advanced disease without any intervention.

Alongside increasing access to the many people with cancer requiring palliative care, mHealth approaches present opportunities to augment existing palliative care provision across hospital and community settings. For example, routine monitoring and assessment of patients supported by mHealth approaches can reduce the cost and time burden of travel to health facilities for patients and increase information available to health professionals to inform their clinical decision making.

Whilst the primary focus is the development of data and information sharing mediated by mHealth approaches, we will also discuss alternative approaches to gathering patient-level data with patients and caregivers that do not involve mobile phones.

This will support a broader understanding of the parameters of mobile phones as tools for developing the evidence base for palliative cancer care and follow-on funding will explore multiple modes of gathering and sharing patient-level data to ensure wide representation of service users across sub-Saharan Africa.