30 breast cancer patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper are taking part in an integrated medical-behavioural health pilot project using the Apple Watch to capture behavioural health data that could affect the courses and outcomes of treatment for breast cancer patients.

The project is in partnership between MD Anderson at Cooper and behavioural health technology company, Polaris Health Directions (Polaris). The study will combine wearable technology with Polestar™, Polaris’s behavioural health outcomes management platform. A proprietary, advanced technology, Polestar captures and analyses 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 behavioural health in cancer care is significant. A positive frame of mind can help patients through all phases of their diagnosis and treatment,” said Director of the MD Anderson at Cooper, Dr Generosa Grana.

“Patient engagement is a critical factor in successful treatment plans. We expect that this pilot project will help us gather important telemetry data to observe how patients are interacting with the Apple Watch and app so that we can provide the best user experience. Ultimately, this data collection will benefit the patients by allowing us to refine their treatment plans even more,” said Grana.

Patients taking part in the nine month-long study each receive a customised Apple Watch and will use Polaris’s emPOWER app to record their experiences during specific times in their treatment cycle. Through emPOWER, patients will gain insights into changes in their mind-sets as they progress through treatment. They can also use the app to connect to other cancer patients, and reach out in real-time to their care team and other members of their patient cohort for both clinical and social support.

The emPOWER app monitors patients’ behavioural health 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 analysing pertinent behavioural health data, one of the app’s central goals is to improve quality of life for cancer patients. The app leverages Apple’s robust iOS HealthKit API to access relevant patient physical health metrics that are used in correlation with the data collected via emPOWER to improve patient outcomes, said Polaris.

According to Director of Behavioural Medicine at MD Anderson at Cooper, Dr Cori McMahon, 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 behaviours, they are able to better understand the correlations between those behaviours and how they are feeling, and even change those behaviours to improve their quality of life,” concluded McMahon.

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