Developed Mobile Websites for Cancer Centers to Let Patients Learn Anytime, Anywhere

Each Site Is Developed and Built on a Common Web Architecture Foundation, yet Allows Many Custom Features

The common foundation includes a large data set of patient education information about cancer and cancer treatment, specifically developed for cancer patients and their family members. This includes groups of information for persons with specific types of cancer such as resources for breast cancer or lung cancer. It also has resources that target specific audiences such as children and adolescents with cancer.

The website foundation is built with JQuery Mobile, a responsive framework that includes user navigation and UI features. These features work well on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. By sticking closely to the development aspects of JQuery Mobile, it makes new site development much easier. This approach also makes it easier to add new features and custom content to exisiting websites.

Development of Dedicated and Mobile-Friendly Sites Is Critical for Cancer Patients and their Families.

The primary website for most cancer centers is developed to meet the needs of multiple audiences and has varied communication messages. Because of these communcation objectives, these websites are not developed to meet the education needs of cancer patients. CancerHelp Online is designed from the ground up based on the specific needs of cancer patients, their families, and the health professionals that serve them. Also, many cancer center websites are not mobile-friendly, limiting their use for patient education. In working with each cancer center and their education and technical staff, it became clear that a cancer patient education website needed to be mobile-friendly. Over the past 7 years, there has been a sharp rise in the use of mobile devices by persons of all age groups, education levels, and economic backgrounds. As a result, collaborating staff at these cancer centers welcomed the development of CancerHelp Online, their mobile-friendly webite.

A Custom Backend Database was Developed to Manage Updating of all Sites

The backend database was developed to process the large amount of data that is presented as user-friendly web patient education. The patient education data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) needs to be updated on a regular basis. The database includes an automatic download feature for the online National Cancer Institute web-based cancer information resources. Other data such as the numerous medical illustrations and glossary terms are downloaded directly through SFTP as part of the NCI’s license agreement. After data download, multiple scripts are run to parse the large web files to create a special menu system for each type of cancer and to link content pages to their specific illustrations. This is a critical step to covert the source data into a user-friendly and mobile-friendly format.

The backend database was also created and programmed to process 80,000 glossary term web pages to give users easy access to look up medical terms by touching a highlighted word or phrase in the text. Development of the backend database also included a feature to create and export the thousands of web pages for each site. These pages are automatically customized with page titles, navigation links, custom footers, and google analytics. The finished folder of web pages, making up the core data set of the patient education information, is then ready to be uploaded to each custom website.

Two of the buttons at right on the Web App screen show “Print Prescription” and “Copy to EMR” Both of these are programmed with lengthy Javascript/JQuery scripts to automate time saving steps for staff.

With CancerHelp Online, Essentia Health has custom patient handouts in PDF format placed in “Teaching Folders”. This helps rural patients to easily access these documents on their smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers saving them a possible trip back to the cancer center.

Custom Features Successfully Support Education Objectives

Each cancer center has specific education objectives that are addressed and supported by their CancerHelp Online mobile site. For example, at regional health provider, Essentia Health Cancer Center serving people in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, they needed a “Teaching Folder” set up for two of their treatment departments. The “Teaching Folders” help them address the needs of rural patients who drive an hour or more each way just to get to the cancer center. The folders include PDFs of important handouts both for the Chemotherapy Department and for the Radiation Therapy Department. The pages on their site with these folders enable them to make their standard handouts available to patients in a user-friendly and mobile way, so patients don’t need to drive back just for education.