Tablet computers to assist cancer patients

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 27, 2013 - 19:44
  • Updated : May 27, 2013 - 19:44

The National Cancer Center’s Hospital East in Kashiwa, Chiba prefecture, Japan, has developed a tablet computer-based system to assist elderly cancer patients at home.

Hospital nurses will use the system to observe patients and give advice to facilitate more efficient treatment by doctors when patients visit the hospital.

Starting this month, the hospital is asking for patients’ cooperation in participating in clinical studies to support proliferation of the assistance system.

In recent years, a rising number of cancer patients have begun receiving cancer treatments, including radiation therapy, as outpatients.
A tablet computing device for home-based cancer patients is shown at the National Cancer Center’s Hospital East in Kashiwa, Chiba prefecture, Japan. (The Japan News)

However, hospitals cannot frequently check on such patients. Furthermore, doctors and nurses in outpatient wings have many patients, and it is difficult to ensure all of them receive proper care.

In many cases, treatments for symptoms such as pain or loss of appetite are not provided as rapidly as needed.

The assistance system was designed to resolve such problems using information and communication technology.

Forty to 50 lung cancer patients aged 65 or older who are being treated with anticancer drugs will be asked to participate in the studies.

The patients will evaluate their condition once or twice a week, entering data into the devices on about 10 points, ranked on a scale of 1 to 10. The evaluated symptoms include pain level, drowsiness, loss of appetite and anxiety.

The information will then be transmitted to a data center where nurses and pharmacists will assess patients’ physical and mental condition. They will also call patients when necessary and answer their questions.

If nurses judge that a patient requires treatment by a doctor, they will collaborate with attending physicians and palliative care teams, who administer pain-relief treatments.

As the age of cancer patients has been steadily rising, the system is also equipped with software to assess deterioration of cognitive functions and related conditions.

In the studies this fiscal year, the hospital will also determine whether patients’ quality of life has improved and consider measures for nurses and pharmacists to assist with this.

Asao Ogawa, an expert on psycho-oncology at the hospital, said, “The system is also significant in that urgent hospitalization due to a deterioration of health will be prevented.

“We want to give home-based patients a sense of peace,” he said.

Kyorin University Hospital in Mitaka, Tokyo, is considering joining the studies.

Based on results, Hospital East hopes the system will spread to institutions nationwide providing cancer treatments.

In 2008, 67 percent of all people diagnosed with cancer were 65 or older, numbering about 540,000 in total.

The number had risen by about 220,000 compared to 1998.

An increasing number of cancer patients are receiving chemotherapy, including anticancer drugs, on an outpatient basis.

At Hospital East, more than half of all patients receive treatment as outpatients. 

(The Japan News)