Urology has led the way introducing new technology for men with prostate cancer. Robotic surgery, focal therapy, nanoknife, cyberknife – the list goes on. But have we fully embraced the everyday technology we all have access to in our care for men with prostate cancer? There are a growing number of Apps designed to support prostate cancer patients and improve quality of life. If you type ‘prostate’ into the iTunes App store about 82 results are found, but many of these are fundraising events, journals and staging tools, many of which are not patient friendly. Whilst there is an increasing appetite for patient-centered tools – focused on supporting and empowering patients in managing their health and wellbeing – we still have some way to go in this regard.
As a clinical psychologist working in urology, I often hear patients and their families describing their feelings of uncertainty and loss of control. Furthermore, Australia is a huge country with vast rural and remote areas and many patients that live in these areas find it very difficult to access the information, advice and support they require to ensure optimal outcomes from their prostate cancer.
The benefits of harnessing technology in the pursuit of improved health and wellbeing via improved patient engagement and access to services are clear; so why not use this technology to improve the care we provide to men with prostate cancer?
We have developed an online prostate cancer portal www.PROSTMATE.org.au
PROSTMATE provides tailored information, access to self-help interventions, a personal record of treatments and other milestones, a PSA graphing function and a regular check-up that records self-reported ratings across 5 quality of life domains and graphs these over time. PROSTMATE also offers telehealth (web-enabled video) consultations with prostate cancer nurses and allied health clinicians.
A complex and dynamic algorithm has been designed to tailor the extensive library of information to match the user type and stage of treatment for each person using PROSTMATE. Recommended library information is delivered to the user via their private dashboard and this information automatically updates when information has been read. This aspect of PROSTMATE was designed to help prostate cancer patients navigate to the information most relevant to them and their circumstances, and to reduce the often overwhelming feeling of information overload.
The timeline provides an opportunity for patients to record all their prostate cancer milestones including their treatments, test results, medical appointments, personal journal entries and more. The timeline’s graphical illustration of PSA results and self-reported quality of life over time also allows users to keep track of things as simply as possible.
The telehealth consultations are one of the most exciting aspects of PROSTMATE as they connect men, and their families with expert prostate cancer nurses and psychologists (and hopefully in the future exercise physiologists and physiotherapists) whom they may not have had access to in their routine care. We know that many men, particularly men from rural and remote areas, find it very difficult to access allied health services and we hope that delivering clinical consultations via telehealth will facilitate improved access to services as well as overall improvements in quality of life in the long-term; not to mention the potential savings made through reduced travel time, time off work and reductions in patient loads in busy outpatient clinics.
PROSTMATE launched to the general public in November 2013 and since then has attracted more than 700 new members. We have received overwhelming feedback supporting the use of technology in the care of everyone affected by prostate cancer. It’s surprising how many men and family members feel isolated by the traditional medical model and we are delighted that we can harness the power of technology to empower and connect people to their health and wellbeing.
PROSTMATE is free to join and has been supported by generous philanthropic funding. Our program is continually evolving as we learn what is most useful to our members, and through this, we intend to expand and develop new components and functionality in the near future. You can become a member yourself by selecting health professional in the sign up pages to see what PROSTMATE might offer your patients.