Digital health for optimal supportive care in oncology: benefits, limits, and future perspectives

Support Care Cancer. 2020 Oct;28(10):4589-4612. doi: 10.1007/s00520-020-05539-1. Epub 2020 Jun 12.


Background: Digital health provides solutions that capture patient-reported outcomes (PROs) and allows symptom monitoring and patient management. Digital therapeutics is the provision to patients of evidence-based therapeutic interventions through software applications aimed at prevention, monitoring, management, and treatment of symptoms and diseases or for treatment optimization. The digital health solutions collecting PROs address many unmet needs, including access to care and reassurance, increase in adherence and treatment efficacy, and decrease in hospitalizations. With current developments in oncology including increased availability of oral drugs and reduced availability of healthcare professionals, these solutions offer an innovative approach to optimize healthcare resource utilization.

Design: This scoping review clarifies the role and impact of the digital health solutions in oncology supportive care, with a view of the current segmentation according to their technical features (connection to sensors, PRO collection, remote monitoring, self-management in real time…), and identifies evidence from clinical studies published about their benefits and limitations and drivers and barriers to adoption. A qualitative summary is presented.

Results: Sixty-six studies were identified and included in the qualitative synthesis. Studies supported the use of 38 digital health solutions collecting ePROs and allowing remote monitoring, with benefits to patients regarding symptom reporting and management, reduction in symptom distress, decrease in unplanned hospitalizations and related costs and improved quality of life and survival. Among those 38 solutions 21 provided patient self-management with impactful symptom support, improvement of QoL, usefulness and reassurance. Principal challenges are in developing and implementing digital solutions to suit most patients, while ensuring patient compliance and adaptability for use in different healthcare systems and living environments.

Conclusions: There is growing evidence that digital health collecting ePROs provide benefits to patients related to clinical and health economic endpoints. These digital solutions can be integrated into routine supportive care in oncology practice to provide improved patient-centered care.

Keywords: Digital therapeutics; Integrative oncology; Patient-reported outcomes; Self-management; Symptom monitoring; eHealth.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / methods*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Telemedicine / methods*

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