Introduction: The patient's role in toxicity reporting is increasingly acknowledged. There is also a need for developing modern communication methods between the patient and the medical personnel. Furthermore, the increasing number of head and neck cancer (HNC) patients is reflected in the volume of treatment follow-up visits, which remains a challenge for the health care. Electronic patient-reported outcome (ePRO) measures may provide a cost-efficient way to organize follow-up for cancer patients.
Materials and methods: We tested a novel ePRO application called Kaiku®, which enables real-time, online collection of patient-reported outcomes, such as side effects caused by treatment and quality of life. We conducted a pilot study to assess the suitability of Kaiku® for HNC patients at the Department of Oncology, Helsinki University Hospital, Helsinki, Finland. Patients used Kaiku® during and one month after radiotherapy to report treatment-related side effects and quality of life. Two physicians and a nurse performed the practical electronic communication part of the study.
Results: Five of the nine patients agreed to participate in the study: three of them had local early-stage larynx cancer (T2N0, T1aN0, and T2N0) and the remaining two patients had early-stage base of tongue cancer (T2N0 and T1N2b). The degree of side effects reported by the patients via Kaiku® ranged from mild to life threatening. The number of outcome data points on patients' progress was significantly increased, which resulted in a better follow-up and improved communication between the patient and the care team.
Conclusions: Kaiku® seems to be a suitable tool to monitor side effects and quality of life during and after radiotherapy among HNC patients. Kaiku® and similar tools could be useful in organizing a cost-effective follow-up process for HNC patients. We recommend conducting a larger study to further assess the impact of an ePRO solution in routine clinical practice. ePRO solutions may aid in the follow-up for cancer patients.They seem suitable to monitor, for example, side effects and quality of life.These systems ensure fast patient-driven reporting.
Keywords: head and neck cancer; health-related quality of life; patient-reported outcome; radiotherapy; side effects.