Acute lymphoblastic lymphoma (ALL) is one of the more common types of cancers that affects children, and as a result, can leave caregivers and parents with roles they may not be prepared to take on. A group in China developed an app, Care Assistant, which was made to help parents and caregivers of children who are diagnosed with ALL. They also published a paper discussing the process of creating a mobile app in the healthcare field.

Prior to developing the app, the group created a focus group of 12 cancer care providers, 3 software engineers and 8 caregivers. They included interviews with caregivers of ALL patients to determine what were the most common barriers that prevented optimal care for their child, as well as questions to determine their attitudes toward mobile health apps. Cancer care physicians and nurses were also asked about the most common barriers they faced for optimal care, what current interventions and support systems were available for care givers, and their attitudes towards mobile health apps.

Using the information from the recorded interviews with all these subgroups, the authors of this paper were able to determine which features would be most useful in their app. Once they developed a general draft for the structure of the app, yhey then had a second round of interviews with the cancer care physicians and nurses to obtain additional opinions of what could be added or deleted from the current draft. The most active members of the focus groups were then brought to a final discussion with software engineers to determine the best user interface for the app.

The results of the focus group showed that the caregivers were very welcoming to a smartphone app to help in taking care of their child. The app was developed with 8 modules that represented the most requested features from the focus groups. These are listed below:

  • Personal Information
  • Treatment Tracking
  • Family Care
  • Financial and Social Assistance
  • Knowledge Centre
  • Self-assessment Questionnaires
  • Interactive Platform
  • Reminders

Some of the most requested features by care givers were information on how to take care of their child at home after being discharged from the hospital, financial and social assistance resources, discussion platforms with other similar care givers, evidence-based knowledge of ALL, and knowledge of their own physical and psychological state. Cancer care providers wanted a way for patients to track treatment and better communication outside of the hospital.

The authors of this paper list a systematic method of developing a healthcare app. Although long-term results of the usefulness of their app have not been studied, the paper presents some key points for those who are interested in developing a mobile health app. It is important to have discussions with those who will benefit from the app, in this case caregivers and cancer care providers, prior to developing an app. This allows for a). determining if there is even a need for the app, and b). targeting specific features which would be most useful for the target audience. The group also included the focus group in discussions about the user interface which could be beneficial. It will be interesting to see any long-term use results this group publishes after developing an app through a systematic process.

ncbi article