• One of the great advantages of smartphone apps is that you can use them in almost any setting. (Getty)
Dr Nikhil Pooviah and Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh and their team are trying to make cancer treatment simpler for Australian patients.
By
Bianca Soldani

8 Sep 2016 - 10:34 AM  UPDATED 8 Sep 2016 - 10:34 AM

A group of young Australian doctors have developed a new platform to manage cancer treatment from your pocket.

CancerAid is a mobile based app designed to help patients navigate their medical journey by providing personalised information on their condition, managing their appointment schedule, and logging their symptoms.

The app’s founder and CEO Dr Nikhil Pooviah, 29, began developing the service as a start-up two years ago and tells SBS that he hopes it will simplify a patient’s experience.

“We know that patients and carers can be quite confused and anxious during their journey,” Dr Pooviah says.

As cancer doctors we discuss a lot of that information verbally, so the app allows patients to go home and read it and digest it at their own pace.

“[The app] provides them with personalised cancer information - we say, this is your type of cancer, this is where it is, this is what your pathology is and this is what your stage is. As cancer doctors we discuss a lot of that information verbally, so the app allows patients to go home and read it and digest it at their own pace.”

“We wanted to create a better solution for patients going through our department,” adds co-founder and radiation oncology registrar, Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh.

He says a lot of information currently gets printed, “it’s all very manual,” he explains, “so we wanted to make that process a little bit more efficient but also easier to understand.”

Dr Murali-Ganesh sees an app-based program as the most convenient option as “apps are really taking over in terms of how people view content, so it’s a natural progression that even healthcare can be delivered that way as long as it’s delivered within the remits of being validated, personalised, ratified information”.

Indeed, a host of free apps such as Cancer.net and Livestrong, deliver a similar service, while in Australia, cancer-specific apps such as the one created by Bowel Cancer Australia also exist.

CancerAid is also offered to patients and carers free of charge - with the bill instead being footed by cancer hospitals, research groups and private cancer specialists – however, it's only available on iPhone. 

Not all types of cancers are covered by the app; very rare ones are yet to be added to the design which currently covers 30 of the most common strains.

A second component of the program meanwhile, allows patients to keep track of their doctors’ appointments and medication intake via an organiser. This function also allows them to record their experience whether it be personal or their symptoms, and will soon be extended to include a log for exercise and nutrition.

“It’s kind of like the go to resource, if you wanted to put your medical records in one place this would be it, on your phone,” Dr Pooviah, who has been working in oncology for four years at Sydney’s Chris O’Brien Lifehouse Hospital and RPA Hospital,  explains.

We’re providing a unique form of telemedicine where patients can allow specialists to monitor their progress and provide care without being face to face.

This provides a particularly useful service for rural cancer sufferers who may not have the opportunity to visit their practitioner as often as those in metropolitan areas. Instead, the patient could electronically share their log with doctors between appointments, or record their progress in certain tasks or goals set by their doctor.

“We’re providing a unique form of telemedicine where patients can allow specialists to monitor their progress and provide care without being face to face,” says Dr Pooviah.

To round out its service, CancerAid also has a social enterprise component through which patients can communicate with others going through the same experience.

While the first version of the app, which was developed by Papercloud, has only been on the market for a matter of weeks, the team - which also includes Dr Rahul Gokarn and Dr Martin Seneviratne - hopes to issue an updated design in November this year.

As both Dr Pooviah and Dr Murali-Ganesh are of Indian descent, they recognise the need to offer a service in languages other than English and while the app is currently only available in English, they say they are working towards being multi-lingual in 2017.

Other apps on the market also offer multi-lingual services.

Childhood cancer survivors suffering long-term health issues
New data has revealed 81 per cent of childhood cancer survivors suffer health consequences well into their adult years.
Meet the radiation therapist impersonating celebrities to help cancer patients
Mark Udovitch is using his long locks to raise money - and laughs.
We will soon be able to test for cancer or heart disease as easily as pregnancy
New technology means you will be able to test for life-threatening diseases in the comfort of your own home.