A survey of cancer care institutions in Nepal to inform design of a pain management mobile application

BMC Palliat Care. 2021 Nov 5;20(1):171. doi: 10.1186/s12904-021-00824-0.


Background: One way to improve the delivery of oncology palliative care in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) is to leverage mobile technology to support healthcare providers in implementing pain management guidelines (PMG). However, PMG are often developed in higher-resourced settings and may not be appropriate for the resource and cultural context of LMICs.

Objectives: This research represents a collaboration between the University of Virginia and the Nepalese Association of Palliative Care (NAPCare) to design a mobile health application ('app') to scale-up implementation of existing locally developed PMG.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of clinicians within Nepal to inform design of the app. Questions focused on knowledge, beliefs, and confidence in managing cancer pain; barriers to cancer pain management; awareness and use of the NAPCare PMG; barriers to smart phone use and desired features of a mobile app.

Findings: Surveys were completed by 97 palliative care and/or oncology healthcare providers from four diverse cancer care institutions in Nepal. 49.5% (n = 48) had training in palliative care/cancer pain management and the majority (63.9%, n = 62) reported high confidence levels (scores of 8 or higher/10) in managing cancer pain. Highest ranked barriers to cancer pain management included those at the country/cultural level, such as nursing and medical school curricula lacking adequate content about palliative care and pain management, and patients who live in rural areas experiencing difficulty accessing healthcare services (overall mean = 6.36/10). Most nurses and physicians use an Android Smart Phone (82%, n = 74), had heard of the NAPCare PMG (96%, n = 88), and reported frequent use of apps to provide clinical care (mean = 6.38/10, n = 92). Key barriers to smart phone use differed by discipline, with nurses reporting greater concerns related to cost of data access (70%, n = 45) and being prohibited from using a mobile phone at work (61%; n = 39).

Conclusions: Smart phone apps can help implement PMG and support healthcare providers in managing cancer pain in Nepal and similar settings. However, such tools must be designed to be culturally and contextually congruent and address perceived barriers to pain management and app use.

Keywords: Cancer; Mobile health; Nepal; Pain; Pain management guidelines; Palliative care; Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Phone*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Neoplasms* / complications
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Nepal
  • Pain Management