Polaris Health Directions and MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper Leverage Wearable Technology to emPOWER a New Generation of Support for Breast Cancer Patients
Thirty breast cancer patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper are taking part in an integrated medical-behavioral health pilot project, using the Apple Watch to capture behavioral data that could affect the courses and outcomes of treatment for breast cancer patients.
The project, which was launched at a December 1, 2015, event, is a joint effort between MD Anderson Cooper and behavioral health technology company Polaris Health Directions of Wayne, Pa. The study will combine wearable technology with Polaris’s Polestar™ behavioral health outcomes management (BHOM) platform – a proprietary, advanced technology that captures and analyzes data to provide meaningful, actionable reporting for monitoring treatment progress and intervening, as necessary, throughout the continuum of care.
“The impact of the integration of behavioral health in cancer care is significant; a positive frame of mind can help patients through all phases of their diagnosis and treatment,” said Generosa Grana, MD, FACP, Director of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. “Patient engagement is a critical factor in successful treatment plans. We expect that this pilot project using the Apple Watch will help us collect important data that will only increase patient engagement. Ultimately, this data collection will benefit the patients by allowing us to refine their treatment plans even more.”
The patients taking part in the study received a customized Apple Watch and hands-on training at the kick-off event. Using Polaris’s emPOWER app, which functions mutually through the Apple Watch and iPhone, patients were trained on how to record their experiences and discover more about their own mindset. They also learned how to use the app to connect to other cancer patients, and reach out in real-time to both their care team and other members of their patient cohort for both clinical and social support.
The emPOWER app monitors patients’ behavioral data such as treatment side effects, sleep information, physical activity levels, patient mood and other measurable information captured through the Apple Watch. By collecting and analyzing pertinent behavioral data, one of the app’s central goals is to improve quality of life for cancer patients. It leverages Apple’s robust iOS HealthKit API to access relevant patient physical health metrics that are used in correlation with behavioral data collected via the Apple Watch and iPhone apps to improve patient outcomes.
“Technology has the rare ability to transform human connectedness, understanding and quality of life,” says Mark Anthony, Chief Executive Officer of Polaris. “We believe technology, brought together with our behavioral health expertise, has the power to touch and transform lives — in this case, the lives of 30 women who are currently undergoing breast cancer treatment.”
According to Cori McMahon, PsyD, Director of Behavioral Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, adjustments to lifestyle changes and uncertainty are among the most significant challenges facing cancer patients. “I think a huge piece of addressing the uncertainty felt by cancer patients is advancing their health literacy. When patients are able to monitor their own behaviors, they are able to better understand the correlations between those behaviors and how they are feeling, and even change those behaviors to improve their quality of life.”
The study will last 9 months.
Wendy A. Marano