hand holding smartphone with app
Ned is an app for prostate cancer survivors to monitor their own health data and connect with their care team (Image: UHN)

If you spot a clinician writing the three-letter code N-E-D, it's good news. N-E-D is shorthand for "no evidence of disease."

It's also the name of a mobile application for prostate cancer survivors in use at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PM). The team behind it, eHealth Innovation at UHN, was recently awarded the Canadian Cancer Society Innovation Grant.

The funding from this grant will enable the UHN team to move to the next phase of the app's development – redefining the model of follow-up care for prostate cancer survivors using Ned. The team will explore the possibility for patients and physicians to have follow-up appointments virtually.

Today, the app is used by prostate cancer survivors at PM to connect with their care team, and to access and monitor their own health data, such as lab results and prostate cancer health indicators. Patients can also report their symptoms in the app, so the physicians have more information to personalize their care.

Ned was originally conceptualized by Dr. Andrew Feifer and Dr. Joseph Cafazzo, who now join clinical partners Drs. Tony Finelli and Alejandro Berlin, to develop an online prostate cancer platform through eHealth Innovation at UHN.

Looking at how it can change the way care is provided

On its own, Ned holds and collects a wealth of data. The clinical and eHealth Innovation teams are now looking to examine how to best use this data on a regular basis to support clinical work.

"We're not just designing an app," says Sheena Melwani, product manager for Ned. "The grant gives us the opportunity to really think about how we can change the way care is provided and deal with this technology, so we can help our clinics achieve new goals."

After treatment, lifetime monitoring is required to assess for reoccurrence of prostate cancer, resulting in follow-up appointments at least once a year. With the grant, the developers will be working with physicians to determine if the data compiled within Ned can be used for complete assessments at a distance.

If so, patients can participate in follow-up appointments virtually using Ned, replacing the need to travel to the doctor's office and enhancing the follow-up care experience for prostate cancer survivors.

Working in the digital space allows Ned to be at the centre of an entire model of care, in a way that aligns patient and physician interests, says Dr. Berlin.

"This is an exciting project that responds to our patient's most common requests: minimizing commuting and wait times, increasing the control over their own health information and disease trajectory, and ensuring high-quality standardized care, regardless of physical location or provider," he says.

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