An e-health project and a web service for patients were awarded the Best Practice Award, ‘More dialogue in cancer’, at the recent National German cancer conference. It is the first time that the German Cancer Society has given an award to an e-health project.

The National German Cancer Conference is one of the most prestigious cancer conferences in Europe. Nearly 10,000 doctors came to visit the event, which is co-organized by the German Cancer Society – Deutsche Krebsgesellschaft (DKG) – and German Cancer Aid. The Best Practice Awards of the DKG were sponsored by the pharmaceutical firm Novartis.

Among the three winners was a mobile phone-based electronic diary that helps cancer patients to deal with problems during their cancer therapy. Another goal is to increase adherence to therapy: oral chemotherapy, in particular, is often not taken according to doctor’s recommendations, which decreases efficacy of therapy.

“We use a Nokia 6280 for our project. It is very easy to use, has a display of a reasonable size and offers voice output for patients with difficulties reading a mobile phone display”, said Dr. Manfred Welslau from the Aschaffenburg Centre of Clinical Studies. Patients use the mobile phone to confirm that they have taken their medication as prescribed up to three times a day.

In addition, every evening, the general state of health and possible side effects of the chemotherapy are logged. Data is captured using a structured interview that can be customised according to the individual patient’s needs and according to the chosen drug therapy and its specific side effect-profile.

In a feasibility study, ten patients used the system in 2007. The interview was tailored to the drug Xeloda, a Roche product. The Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company paid for the development of the diary.

Following the 2007 pilot, a bigger study with one hundred patients is planned for this year. In addition to Roche, Novartis also plans to use the system for patients on oral chemotherapy in clinical studies.

The second e-health best practice award went to the Institute for Women’s Health (Institut für Frauengesundheit) in Tübingen. “In cooperation with the patient self help group mamazone, we developed a web site for women with breast cancer”, said Julia Kansky who started the website. Using the website, patients with breast cancer can look for clinical studies that are currently running.

The site offers a search function for the different types of studies (chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy etc.) together with the option of entering how far the patient would be willing to travel to a study centre.

“This is a service that is extremely useful for breast cancer patients. It helps to increase quality of cancer care and empowers patients, because it gives them the information on where cutting-edge clinical studies are being performed”, said DKG-president Michael Bamberg from the cancer department of Tübingen university hospital.

Within a few months of launch, the site is getting more than 12,000 visitors a month. “We have also asked our visitors about further services and realise that almost 60 per cent would welcome a breast cancer specific PHR [Personal Health record] where they can store documents related to their breast cancer”, said Kansky. A breast cancer PHR is now planned as the next project.

Link (German language only)