Using Technology In Cancer Support

Technology has been an incredible addition to our lives in recent years. I know not everything has been positive, but particularly through the covid times, most of us would have struggled without it. We have seen a giant leap in what tech can help us do in our everyday lives. However I don’t see that improvement in healthcare. This is a sector where progress is particularly slow. Looking on with fear, rather than embrace the incredible progress it can bring to both patients and clinicians.

So whilst the NHS and similar organisations dither, patients demands are being fulfilled directly by private producers. Many companies see the NHS as a barrier to change and innovation so now go directly to the consumers. Personally I feel our sector should be engaging with a lot more tech companies which would certainly help improve the lives of people before and after treatment. Today I am focussing on Owise, an app developer, to understand how it came about and can help patients.

Anne Bruinvels founder of O wise
Anne Bruinvels founder of OWise ( Picture Credit Beth Crockatt,

“The founder of OWise, Anne Bruinvels, wanted to give patients more insights and control after a cancer diagnosis. Anne’s objective was simple: to use the patient’s voice to improve both patient experience and clinical outcomes in cancer. Many charities and organisations plan in terms of long-term impact but like Chris, both through his insightful informational blog and charity SIMPAL, the team at OWise look for solutions and tools to help cancer patients in their day-to-day lives starting from today.

The idea behind OWise began in 2012 when Anne spoke to a friend diagnosed with breast cancer and realised that patients’ experience following diagnosis was much poorer than it needed to be. Anne teamed up with her brother David, an oncology specialised physician supporting patients’ return to work, to create OWise Breast Cancer, an app which launched first in the Netherlands in 2013 and in the UK in 2016 through the NHS Innovation Accelerator programme. The free and data-secure app provides personalised information and self-management tools to cancer patients from the moment of diagnosis. It is NHS validated, used by 1000s of people in the UK and recommended to other patients by 90% of patients and clinicians.

“In a time where technology is fully embedded in our daily lives, I wondered why there were no smart, digital tools to support cancer patients during their treatment. Since OWise was launched we have witnessed the positive effects it has on cancer patients, their treating clinicians, as well as the patient-doctor relationship.” – Dr. Anne Bruinvels

The team at OWise has since turned to address the specific needs of prostate cancer patients, because although prostate cancer is the most common cancer amongst men, there seemed to be a lack of specific support for this population. OWise Prostate Cancer was launched this March and is based on the successful tools and features of the OWise breast cancer app.

The OWise app
The OWise app

Like many of the best ideas for helping people affected by cancer this app was introduced after conversations with patients themselves. Something that is still not done as frequently as it should be. The fear of technological progress that we see from the NHS is based mostly on lack of knowledge and experience. As most of us use it to make our lives easier, the Health Service gaze at it, looking for reasons not to change, also putting up finance as a big barrier. Which of course doesn’t hold water at all.

Pre-covid we were talking about improving the lives of people living with cancer. Of which technological advances would certainly help do that. For any business not investing in their IT etc in this day and age is absolutely suicidal. But as we know this is an organisation that up till recently was still using fax machines and Windows 7! However now just giving treatment has become the main objective, as waiting lists grow to record levels.

Smart devices giving us all sorts of information are now easily available. Apps are plentiful too. Whether these are the long-term answers, only time will tell. But I am delighted to see innovators looking at possible answers. The downside of this current direction of travel is that these rely on customers having the money to buy the hardware and phones. A majority that might need these will not be able to do this until the prices drop. This is another indicator of health inequalities. But we have to find a solution and fully embrace tech into the healthcare sector.

The most important thing, which I know commercial industry understands, is that patients must be involved in the development of these products. Something not fully understood by large corporate charities and the NHS themselves. We certainly are a long way from finding a cure for cancer, but anything to improve our lives must be good. We must keep pushing and see where innovation will take us. We would still be using candles if nobody invented the light bulb!!

I would like to thank the team at OWise for sharing the back story regarding their apps. If you would like to know more you can get in touch through their website or social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. OWise is available to download for FREE on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

Do you use apps to help you with your cancer? Please let us know below your views of technology and healthcare.

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