Cleveland Clinic app helps connect patients, doctors, trials

Posted on MibiHealthNews April 15, 2013
Cleveland Clinic has built an app to help both physicians and patients find cancer clinical trials. The app, available for free from the iOS AppStore and the Google Play store, allows users to search the Cleveland Clinic’s the 130 active clinical trials by disease, phase, hospital location, or doctor. Although the app has been available since the end of January, the Cleveland Clinic has just officially announced it.

“When patients come in we’re always seeing if they’re appropriate for our clinical trials,” Dr. Brian Rini, an oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center and the physician lead on the app, told MobiHealthNews. “The app puts it all into one nice tidy package. It also has general information about clinical trials, consent, process. And it lists all the trials open throughout our system.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, less than 5 percent of adult cancer patients sign up for a clinical trial. And NCI studies have shown most patients don’t know clinical trials are an option for their care. Connecting more patients to trials can help improve patient outcomes and also help to move cancer research forward.

“Anything we can do to get more people is good,” said Rini. “The only way we make research advances is by putting more patients on clinical trials.”

Rini envisions the app as a tool for several different groups. He said that a certain slice of engaged patients are already doing research, searching for clinical trials online and bringing printouts into appointments. Other, older patients might not look at the app themselves, but caregivers or family members might.

“A lot of our patients have daughters, sons, etc. The way they get info is not picking up the phone, it’s looking on the internet or on a smartphone app,” said Rini. “It’s also an easy tool for a referring physician to look at, even if they’re sitting with the patient.”

The app will tell users about the protocols of a trial, what stage it’s in, potential benefits and drawbacks, and basic eligibility criteria. From there, the user can call the Cleveland Clinic’s Cancer Answer Line and possibly schedule a visit to determine final eligibility or get signed up. The app can also help connect patients with patient resources, financial services information, support groups and treatment guides.

Last month Novartis released an app called Clinical Trial Seek, which searches all the clinical trials in the government’s database. The Orlando Business Journal reported yesterday that Florida Hospital just launched its own clinical trial app, called MD Trial, although that app appears to have been in the AppStore since December. Florida Hospital’s app searches as well, but users can limit their search to Florida Hospital trials. Rini said he expects most major cancer centers will have an app like this soon if they don’t already.

“It sort of seems obvious,” he said. “We probably should have done it years ago.”