Mobile app will provide dietary advice and real-time symptom management
Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to enhance individualized, timely and equitable access to care for cancer patients and their families.
The local effort will feature use of an innovative mobile app in collaboration with Rakshit Sharma, MD, CEO of digital health company Care4ward Inc., to provide nutritional support and real-time symptom management to patients undergoing anti-cancer treatment, particularly the underserved and those living long distances from the clinic.
The grant, covering just more than two years, is known as a “Navigation Capacity-Building Initiative Grant,” referring to the use of patient “navigators” such as registered nurses with oncology-specific clinical knowledge who help guide patients through health care systems with the resources they need. The American Cancer Society sees patient navigation as critical to address barriers to care.
The grant program to be implemented by Mays Cancer Center will provide cancer patients with continuous access to dietary and symptom support.
“The award of the American Cancer Society grant is to provide real-time medical nutrition therapy and symptom management by digital navigation and access to innovation in underserved cancer patients,” said Daruka Mahadevan, MD, PhD, chief of the Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology at UT Health San Antonio and associate director of clinical research at Mays Cancer Center. “This we hope will lead to even better patient outcomes.”
Mahadevan is co-investigator of the grant, along with Kayla Chamberlin, BSN, RN, senior clinical research nurse, Institute for Drug Development at the Mays Cancer Center.
The mobile app provided by Agilix, a digital nutrition management and counseling service, will aid that real-time outreach, part of a wide-ranging effort involving personnel from across Mays Cancer Center – from doctors to nurse researchers, dietitians and other navigators to provide individualized assistance.
“With encompassing symptom management support, daily monitoring and weekly calls with a registered dietitian, the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio, with Agilix, is better-positioned to maintain a holistic, higher level of care for oncology patients,” Chamberlin said. “This will become the new standard of care.”
Mahadevan said patients who are undergoing treatment but who live far away from the cancer center might see their oncologists and nurses every two or three weeks. But during the period at home, complications can arise, and word might not get to the clinic on time. He said those patients might end up in an emergency room and get admitted to the hospital.
“So, if we can capture symptoms in real time, then we can prevent patient visits to the emergency department from happening,” Mahadevan said. “And if a patient is able to get their therapy on time and at the right dose, with appropriate nutritional treatment, chances of actually benefiting from treatment are much higher than if they couldn’t.”
The funding to Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio is one of 20 patient navigation grants awarded by the American Cancer Society across the country, totaling $6 million.
Data shows that customized care provided through patient navigation programs decreases hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions, and improves timely diagnostic follow-up, according to the American Cancer Society. Additionally, patient navigation increases scheduled appointment arrivals, adherence to recommended cancer screening and the likelihood treatment is initiated within 30 to 60 days from diagnosis.
“The patient navigation program offered at the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio takes an innovative approach to engage underserved patients in new ways and help address the day-to-day challenges they face when going through cancer treatment,” said Donna Rankin, cancer support strategic partnerships manager with the American Cancer Society. “Our $300,000 grant will help Mays Cancer Center employ resources that will not only anticipate and address disruptions in a cancer patient’s treatment plan, but also ensure they fully benefit from state-of-the-art science available to them.”
The grants will enable more people with cancer to benefit from patient navigation and will inform ACS’ future strategy and direction for elevating patient navigation sustainability, impact and delivery moving forward.