Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Date: 3 January, 2023
The project was developed jointly by the Pergamino Cancer Center (COP) and Connectis Argentina, within the framework of the national program “Transform Health”.
“When the protagonist of the Breaking Bad series is diagnosed with cancer, what we see in the scene is that he stares at a mustard stain on the doctor’s apron and what we hear is a beep that silences the explanations of the doctor. This is exactly what happens to a person when they receive this diagnosis: studies indicate that patients will barely remember 40% of what the doctor explains to them and, of this, 20% is distorted in their memory due to stress, anxiety and fear”, says Dr. Elena Casco, a specialist in Oncological Radiotherapy at the Pergamino Cancer Center.
How to support, accompany and improve the results of a radiotherapy treatment? This was the question that prompted the idea of developing a tool to help patients facing radiation therapy.
Within the framework of the Transformar Salud project, the Pergamino Cancer Center and the Hospital Interzonal General de Agudos San José de Pergamino sought out Connectis as a technological partner to develop a tool that would contribute to the well-being of patients. The result of this alliance was the mobile application De Radioterapia con amor, one of the winning projects of the 2021 call.
“When patients arrive for radiotherapy sessions, they already come with the diagnosis, so they have the disease more or less assumed. But the treatment is a great unknown. We know more about chemotherapy, while radiotherapy is a treatment that has been somewhat invisible. In the first consultation of the treatment, a lot of information is given to the patient that is very important for the therapy to go well. They are informed of the possible adverse reactions, the care they should receive, the diet, etc.”, says Dr. Casco.
Considering the low retention rate of this type of information, the COP professionals thought of a tool that would be very easy to use and increase patients’ trust/engagement.
“We met Connectis and we thought they were wonderful. We had many ideas for this application to serve patients and we needed to focus. They guided us to focus on the key objective, which is to assist and accompany the patient”, recalls the doctor.
“We applied an agile methodology and the truth is that it was very easy to work with the Connectis team because, from the beginning, they understood us and our target audience, which has a very different profile from what they are used to dealing with. In addition, their experience and trajectory gave us a lot of peace of mind” she adds.
Rosana Canone, Sales Director in Argentina, highlights what this challenge meant for the team that was part of the project. “At Connectis we are used to dealing with ‘tough’ projects and issues. It was a challenge for the team to become familiar with these issues, especially when we talked about the adverse effects of radiation therapy. The project has reminded us of the more human side of technology, and has sensitized and made us aware. We thank the COP team and the Hospital for the way they had to interact and communicate with such freedom and frankness”.
Amilcar Osorio, medical physicist and manager of the COP, emphasizes the aspects highlighted by the patients who are testing the application. “The mere fact of discovering a tool that is designed for them, to support them, is already highly valued. They are surprised to learn that they can clarify a doubt by simply checking their mobile. And they emphasize that it is a personalized application and very easy to use”.
The application favors the treatment and its results to the extent that “it increases adoption rate that is, more patients continue to attend the sessions until the end of the prescription. Secondly, it has therapeutic benefits because the adverse effects that therapy can have are diminished, such as toxicity, which is key in some types of cancer such as pelvic or breast cancer”, explains Amilcar Osorio.
Dr. Casco also stresses that a large number of people can benefit from this tool. In the hospital, 40% of the cancer that is diagnosed has a prescription for radiotherapy and there are some types in which it increases. For example, in Argentina around 4,500 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. Depending on the stage, their treatment consists of radiotherapy in 70% of the cases”.
And now what?
The physicist Amilcar Osorio explains that they are carrying out usability tests with patients to make the necessary improvements. “The app is now available in Play Store after obtaining impact data from the patients’ point of view.”
Dr. Elena Casco is already thinking about adding functionality and perhaps developing new products for other medical needs. For now, the next step is to expand its coverage to patients at the centers of the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA), among which is the COP.
The Transformar Salud project – Promoting innovation and digitization of the National Health System- is a program created by the Garrahan Foundation and Roche Products to promote digital transformation, innovation in processes and sustainability of the health system through the participation of health centres.
Participants of the Connectis Argentina team: Paola Sapino – Operations Director, Leonardo De Seta, Martín Bertucelli, and special mention to Mauricio Zanón, who approached Connectis with the initiative, enabling us to participate in the Project.