Cancer researchers harnessing Apple Watch for study

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    (Photo via ShutterStock)

    Two local health care groups are putting the new Apple Watch technology to work.

    Polaris Health Directions and MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper in Camden are the first to use the wearable technology to study health outcomes in breast cancer patients.

    Thirty women in various stages of breast cancer treatment will wear the watch during the nine-month study. The watch’s built-in sensors will track the patient’s heart rate and physical activity. A custom-made app will ask questions about mood and pain levels.

    Scott Johnson, the Polaris developer in charge of building the app, said the study depends on the women feeling comfortable using the new technology.

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    “Some of the challenges we have yet to see [are], what’s the uptake of this technology from the patients themselves? And how frictionless can we make the experience to make it enjoyable for them and yet also get useful data and information and have an impact beyond just the technology demo?” said Johnson.

    The Apple Watch will also increase the frequency of communication between doctors and patients. Cori McMahon, director of behavioral medicine at Cooper, said the technology will help physicians keep track of how a patient is doing in real time.

    “So if the patient, for example, has rated her mood very low for a couple of days, we might have this automatic message that goes to her and says, ‘Hey, I realized you’ve rated your mood very low. Would you like to speak with someone?’ Or, ‘I realize you haven’t moved very much today. How are you feeling?'” said McMahon.

    Eventually, the technology will allow breast cancer patients to communicate with one another as part of a virtual support group, McMahon said.

    The group hopes to conduct a larger scientific trial based on the Apple Watch study sometime next year.

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