Mayo Clinic study finds emojis promising tool for tracking cancer patients’ quality of life

Dec. 11, 2017

In findings presented to the American Society of Hematology, Mayo Clinic researchers found that using emojis instead of traditional emotional scales were helpful in assessing patients’ physical, emotional, and overall quality of life.

Researchers found that using iPhones and Apple Watches were favored by patients, and the technology helped collect study data accurately and efficiently. The study, created using Apple’s ResearchKit framework, showed that Apple Watch provides objective, continuous activity data that correlates with established cancer patient-reported outcomes.

Lead author Carrie Thompson, M.D., a hematologist at Mayo Clinic, says gauging a patient’s qualify of life and performance status can be challenging, because it typically involves completing lengthy paper questionnaires, which can be burdensome for patients and may be inaccurate.

Researchers recruited 115 patients with lymphoma and multiple myeloma at Mayo Clinic with expected life spans of less than five years and who owned an iPhone 5 or later. All patients were provided with an Apple Watch and downloaded a study app at enrollment. Researchers collected baseline data, including questions regarding physical function, fatigue, sleep, social role, function, and quality of life.

In addition, researchers developed two electronic emoji scales to measure quality of life.

“Emojis are a near universal, popular form of communication, understandable by diverse populations, including those with low health literacy,” says Dr. Thompson.

During the first week of the study, patients wore their Apple Watch for an average of 9.3 hours per day, took 3,760 mean steps per day, exercised 8.3 minutes per day, were sedentary 224.9 minutes per day, and burned 115.8 kilocalories per day. Researchers observed significant associations between standard patient-reported outcome measures and activity data. The strongest correlation was between steps per day and the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System physical function scoring system. In addition, researchers found that patients’ emoji responses were significantly associated with standard patient-reported outcomes.

Newswise has the full article

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