Published: 02nd October 2019
This team of health experts have designed an app to train primary health care providers to detect and screen cancer
Regi Jacob, a co-investigator for the M-Onco Ed app speaks about how it educates doctors on how to detect cancer before it is too late to treat it
"90 percent of the time, a lump in the breast may not be cancer. There is only a ten per cent probability that you are actually at risk. But the secret to finding out is to go to an expert doctor who can differentiate cancer from other non cancerous lumps and get examined," says Dr Regi Jose, Professor of Community Medicine at Sree Gokulam Medical College. She is also the Medical Director at Snehita Women’s Health Foundation, an NGO in Thiruvananthapuram that deals with breast cancer awareness , clinical breast examination and early detection of breast cancer.
Through her many years of experience, she recognized that one of the problems in cancer care was that primary health care providers aren’t really able to motivate ladies for early detection or detect cancer at an early stage and give appropriate advice regarding treatment.
" As luck would have it, she was approached by Dr.Sujha Subramanian from RTI International, an independent nonprofit research institute based in North Carolina, USA; dedicated to improving the human condition. In an effort to fix the broken system, both of them took the initiative to create M-OncoEd, a mobile app for educating health providers about the common cancers, with the help of authorities in the field like Dr.Rengaswamy Sankaranarayanan, former Chief of Screening at IARC, WHO and Dr.Paul Augustine, Head of Surgical Oncology at Regional cancer Centre,Thiruvananthapuram. Dr.Anoop Lal Director Zovoz Technologies was instrumental in developing the mobile app .The National Institute of Health(NIH), USA, allocated a grant to Snehita Women’s Health Foundation to make and implement the M-OncoEd app.
The app is like a capsule. The app contains all the necessary information needed for early detection and management of breast, oral cavity and cervical cancers, provided in the most convenient form with video and audio inputs. It is made available for healthcare providers as a module of less than 3 hours.
"Sujha Subramanian wanted to create a mobile health platform," explains Regi. She continues, "The idea is to introduce primary health care givers to the proper process beginning from the exact way a patient needs to be undressed to the crux of the examination process itself. Mobile health was considered so that everyone would know about it and could learn in a convenient way with the help of logical applications and the correct methods involved ". According to guidelines, women 30 years or older, should have clinical breast examination at least once a year. And if she has any increased risk, she may have to visit the doctor every 4-6 months.
The team understood that most hospitals do not have doctors who are properly trained in Clinical Breast Examination. "The problem with health professionals not being trained is that symptoms would already need to be extremely evident and at a crucial stage, before they could detect an abnormality. Doctors should be able to detect the cancer before the symptoms are extremely evident. This is why we need proper training if we are to detect cancers at an early and curable stage."
Doctors who enroll in the mobile health programme receive a certificate like with any course. As a pilot programme, around 4000 doctors have been offered the app. The training modality has been designed in such a way that it can always be subject to change according to updated guidelines. Basically, the app offers innovative training that circumvents the need for face-to-face training.