Free app: iPal helps clinicians learn palliative care

Categories: Care.

Although he has great admiration for Palliative Care team, PHC internal medicine specialist Stephane Voyer isn’t relying on them as much these days to help him care for patients with end-stage disease. Before he makes the call to a palliative care expert, he heads online.

On a new web-based tool called iPal (www.ipalapp.com), Dr Voyer can immediately access the information he needs to initiate a palliative care approach himself. “It’s very helpful to be able to get the ball rolling and address the patient’s symptoms right away while we’re arranging for a palliative care consultation,” he says.

When his work takes him to smaller hospitals in Canada’s British Colombia without palliative care support services, Dr Voyer appreciates iPal even more. On his smart phone, he can quickly access quality information to guide his care decisions and interactions with patients and their families.

The iPal mobile app was developed by the Palliative Care team with support from St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation. Designed specifically for use on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, iPal brings essential palliative care information to health professionals at point of care. 

Sections on assessing and managing symptoms feature dropdown menus with information and treatment recommendations (including dosages) for the most common symptoms. Sections on planning and communicating provide practical guidance for supporting patients and their families, and ‘talk tips’ throughout the tool suggest helpful ways to approach palliative care discussions.

The mobile app idea was first suggested by Pastoral Care’s Thomas Salley, a member of PHC’s multidisciplinary End-of-Life Council. “It’s an educational tool for clinicians,” says Dr Romayne Gallagher, Physician Program Director of PHC’s Palliative Care Program, and leader of the iPal project, “but we’re hoping that patients and their families will get better communication, along with a better understanding of their condition and treatment options, thanks to the information available to clinicians through iPal.”

Early response to iPal has been very positive. “We’ve heard from physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrators about the value of iPal,” reports Dr Gallagher. In keeping with their capacity-building goals, the team has also started promoting the use of iPal beyond Providence. “The council looks at ways to help build caregiver capacity in acute settings,” Dr Gallagher explains, “we thought this was a great way to make palliative care information more readily available to people across our organization.”

Dr Voyer agrees. “I think iPal is incredibly useful, especially for junior practitioners who may not have a lot of experience with difficult conversations about end-of-life care. The strength of the app is that it uses plain language and it’s so practical.”

“There aren’t many other online tools out there,” observes Dr Gallagher. “We’ve made sure that iPal reflects best practices and current evidence, so it can be confidently used by any health professional.”

Since the official launch of iPal in September 2013, the web-based app has received thousands of visits from healthcare providers across Canada and in other countries, including the Netherlands, India and the UK.

To access iPal, visit www.ipalapp.com. iPal is compatible with smartphone and tablet browsers, as well as newer versions of desktop browsers. It is free to use for any clinician, anywhere. If you have any feedback or suggestions for improving this resource, please contact Romayne Gallagher at rgallagher@providencehealth.bc.ca