Smartphone app, Fitbit combo monitors recovery in cancer patients

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center have found using a smartphone application with a wearable activity tracker may improve outcomes for patients with cancer undergoing chemotherapy by providing real-time monitoring and detection of worsening symptoms. Findings were published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Identifying early changes in the physical and psychological symptoms that occur during chemotherapy allows clinicians to address these problems more quickly. In this study, researchers evaluated the feasibility in using a smartphone app and Fitbit to remotely monitor patients to provide insight into patient symptoms.

The study, which ran for 295 days, enrolled 14 patients undergoing chemotherapy for gastrointestinal cancer who carried a smartphone and wore a Fitbit to collected daily data on 12 common symptoms. Patients classified each day as "higher-than-average burden," "average burden" or "low burden" day. These measurements, along with sleep and activity data collected with the Fitbit, were then used to develop an algorithm that could identify and correlate the symptoms in a patient’s day.

"We found that on days when the patients reported worse-than-average symptoms, they tended to spend more time being sedentary, moved the phone more slowly and spent more minutes using apps on the phone," said Carissa Low, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, and lead author of the study. "Collecting these objective behavioral measures from smartphone sensors requires no additional effort from patients, and they could prove beneficial for long-term monitoring of those undergoing arduous cancer treatments or those with other chronic illnesses."

Overall, results showed the smartphone sensor and Fitbit trained algorithm was able to identify and correlate symptom burden days with 88.1 percent accuracy.

“Passive sensor data, including mobile phone accelerometer and usage and Fitbit-assessed activity and sleep, were related to daily symptom burden during chemotherapy,” concluded Low. “These findings highlight opportunities for long-term monitoring of cancer patients during chemotherapy with minimal patient burden as well as real-time adaptive interventions aimed at early management of worsening or severe symptoms.”