Report on Cancer and Technology Highlights Georgia Tech Research
A new national report on the role of technology in cancer treatment, prevention and care features two research projects from Georgia Tech. In their 2016 report to President Barack Obama, the President’s Cancer Panel included research from College of Computing Professor and Executive Director of the Institute for People and Technology (IPaT) Beth Mynatt, and 2016 Foley Scholar and Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing Maia Jacobs.
The report, Improving Cancer-Related Outcomes with Connected Health, which aims to help patients manage their health information and participate in their own care, highlighted mobile applications MyJourney Compass and MyPath. Both projects are collaborative efforts led by Mynatt and Jacobs.
“Inclusion in this report is a tremendous honor and positive sign for research aimed at improving patient engagement and eliminating barriers to care,” said Mynatt.
As part of a pilot test of MyJourney Compass, breast cancer patients in Rome, Georgia, received tablet computers that included a suite of tools integrated into their existing health care systems as well as a broad range of clinical and nonclinical applications. Patients could customize tablets for personal use by downloading additional tools like games, social media, and religious applications.
The majority of patients used the tablets throughout treatment and into survivorship, reporting that the non-health resources helped them to cope with their cancer diagnoses and treatments. Researchers found that integration of health and non-health resources contributed to continued user engagement with the tablets, making it easier for patients to access health resources when necessary.
Last year, the project received a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to design the next generation of the tablets, called MyPath. Over the next three years, Georgia Tech researchers will continue prototyping and testing tablets that can anticipate a patient’s needs and prepare them for treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy, while also helping them overcome barriers to care.
Jacobs said their lab is just beginning to deploy the new tablet system for MyPath, which will offer personalized recommendations to cancer patients throughout their treatment.
“As we work on this and future studies, our focus will continue to be on developing better technologies that consider the broad and dynamic challenges individuals with chronic illnesses face on a daily basis,” Jacobs said. “Our hope is that the inclusion of this work in the report provides a platform for raising awareness of this need and allow us to engage in collaborations around the country.”
Georgia Tech’s Interoperability & Integration Innovation Lab (I3L) is also expanding the scope of MyJourney Compass. They’re partnering with Athens Regional Medical Center on another breast cancer project and have worked with Cartersville Medical Center to develop tools for patients with head and neck cancer. The tools for these patients allow them to track additional symptoms like throat and mouth pain, weight, and nutrition.
The work and the recognition was only possible through the input of a number of organizations, Jacobs said.
“Having our research highlighted in this report to the president is an honor,” Jacobs said. “MyJourney Compass and MyPath are multiyear projects we have worked on in (Mynatt’s) lab, and were only possible due to the dedication and collaboration of so many people and organizations, including IPaT, the Interactive Media Technology Center, the Harbin Cancer Clinic, the Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition, and the Rome Cancer Navigators.”
“Our next steps include creating tools for cancer survivors. Breast cancer survivors may undergo hormone therapy for a decade after treatment. We want to create tools that continue to support patient needs, increase engagement and minimize barriers to care long into survivorship,” said Mynatt.
Read the entire report at the President’s Cancer Panel website.