It is hard to imagine anything more stressful than searching for the best possible ways to improve the quality of life of a child diagnosed with a serious or chronic illness. Fortunately for the families of children with all types of conditions The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Canada continues to be at the forefront of advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research, and education as enhanced by cutting-edge technology.
SickKids seems to be constantly coming up with ingenious ways to improve patient care (and I should add family care as well since when one member of a family is ailing everyone is impacted). While I highly recommend bookmarking this page for either yourself or for passing it along to friends, I’d like to draw your attention to two recent applications they have developed.
- Pain Squad: An iPhone app which “gamifies” the process of tracking the physical and emotional wellbeing of young people with cancer
- TnECHO: Available free from iTunes, this application is designed for staff and trainee neonatologists performing Targeted Neonatal Echocardiography (TnECHO), ultrasounds on the hearts of newborns that aid in clinical diagnosis.
Empowering young cancer victims to help fight their disease
Young cancer victims must battle the disease and manage the pain that comes with its treatment. The only way they can optimize pain management is to effectively communicate how they are feeling to those treating them. The challenge has been that obtaining timely and useful information has been by having patients or family members fill out a daily paper-based pain diary. To say the least, for kids undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment, completing a pain dairy can be problematic at best.
Enter Paid Squad.
SickKids researchers with the help of Cundari, a Tonronto-based marketing communications company, “gamified” the process of getting pain management information from young patients, by enabling kids to complete their diaries twice a day with help from TV celebrities from the hit law enforcement shows, Rookie Blue and Flashpoint.
“Playing their crime- fighting characters, the actors performed in encouraging video clips that are unlocked as the kids win promotions to higher ranks,” is how SickKids describes the app. They added, “Patient-users join the Pain Squad as “Rookies” and progress through different levels. By completing more surveys they are promoted to higher ranks, such as ‘Sergeant’ and ‘Captain’.”
Dr. Jennifer Stinson, scientist and nurse practitioner in the Chronic Pain Program, SickKids summed the value up well stating,”We made it easier for kids and teens to track their pain symptoms by using technology that they’re familiar with. Keeping an iPhone pain diary is not only less work, but fun, too. Pain Squad is unique because while it helps patients keep track of their own symptoms, it also contributes to research by collecting data on cancer pain. Having solid information on the prevalence and severity of pain and the effectiveness of treatment will allow us to better manage pain and ultimately help improve the quality of life for our patients.”
Now in its third iteration, Pain Squad will soon be tested in three other Canadian pediatric oncology centers with the goal of making it generally available once the final bugs are worked out in the near future. While it may have been developed for adolescents, there is a huge lesson to be learned here that is applicable for use by people caring for ailing members of their family of any age. One can only hope that those in the medical profession are taking careful notes.
Getting ultrasounds right
Developers Dr. Patrick McNamara from SickKids and Dr. Afif EL-Khuffash from Mount Sinai Hospital developed TnECHO as a portable reference guide to provide staff and trainee neonatologists who are performing Targeted Neonatal Echocardiography (TnECHO) ultrasounds on the hearts of newborns the best information available when doing clinical diagnosis.McNamara says, “As a test, TnECHO is transforming our approach to neonatal care…It gives us more accurate information and empowers us to make the right clinical decisions for our newborn patients, faster.”The app is straightforward a very powerful aide. It provides real-time information on the performance and function of the cardiovascular system of newborns and gives healthcare professionals more insight than clinical signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure that neonatologists have traditionally relied on.
McNamara and El-Khuffash saw the need for a portable reference guide based on their own practice where heavy and expensive reference books and CD-ROMs were employed to help them perform echocardiography. This meant difficulty in making timely point-of-care assessments. The doctors stress that the app be used in conjunction with formal echocardiography training.
“With the app, neonatologists can quickly reference the steps to obtain the right ultrasound images and information to guide them in their cardiac assessment,” says McNamara.The echocardiography training and clinical guidelines which the TnECHO app is based on were developed by Dr. Luc Mertens, a cardiologist at SickKids, with McNamara and other international experts within the field. The good news is that the team is looking to expand the app to help aid in a variety of other newborn assessments.
Empowering patients to become part of their own care by having a real voice that can be acted on, and giving critical care professionals the tools they need to perform at their best in what can be life and death situations, are just two of the many things in the works at SickKids. Just thought you’d like to know, about the hospital in general and how they are using mobile technology to improve patient care and provide a commodity that in seemingly dire circumstances can be in short supply—peace of mind.
Edited by Jamie Epstein