Content for the mental health app from Careology was co-designed with the hospital’s young patients
“As something which has been co-developed by young patients who have been through a cancer experience, I think it will make a huge difference in supporting other young people and making them feel less alone. If you’re having an ‘up’ or a ‘down’ day, it will provide articles that support you.” Lauren Merry, member of the Royal Marsden Youth Forum
The Royal Marsden Hospital, a tertiary centre specialising in cancer care, has become the first hospital in the country to offer a mental health app to support teenagers and young people with cancer.
The app, developed by Careology, will provide access to tailored content co-developed with 16–24-year-old patients and their clinicians. For each theme, a representative from the Royal Marsden’s teens and young adults (TYA) Youth Forum was paired up with a clinician, such as a lead nurse, occupational therapist, or nutritionist, to make sure that information was accurate and would appeal to a young person going through or recovering from treatment.
The information on the app covers topics identified by young people as most important to them including managing symptoms, fatigue, body image, food and nutrition and mental health support, specifically around dealing with anxiety. This content will complement information from Trekstock and other charities, also available through the app.
Each patient will see personalised and age-specific content including peer-to- peer advice, poems, tips, articles and recipes.
The app’s symptom-tracking features enable each patient to record the symptoms and feelings they are experiencing.
Emma Thistlethwayte, teenage and young adult lead nurse at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are so pleased that the Careology app will enhance the psychological support available to our teenage and young adult patients at the Royal Marsden.
“Being diagnosed with cancer at a young age is life-changing, and it affects people emotionally as well as physically.
“A number of our young patients are referred to our psychological support service, which is funded by the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.
“We wanted to provide further mental health support to them through every stage of their diagnosis, treatment and beyond, and Careology’s solution enables exactly that.”
She added: “Incorporating the patient voice was very important to us, and the tools and resources in the app will support and empower patients to contribute to their own emotional wellbeing and overall health.”
The Royal Marsden’s Youth Forum reviewed many different app providers, each of whom presented to the group, before choosing Careology’s cancer care app.
Lauren Merry, 21, a member of the Youth Forum, helped to develop content for the app. Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015 when she was only 14 years old, she was treated at The Royal Marsden’s Oak Centre for Children and Young People.
She was given the all-clear in December 2017 and now helps to support other young patients who are going through their own cancer diagnosis through the Youth Forum.
“We should all be looking after our mental wellbeing anyway but with a cancer diagnosis, it’s something that becomes even more important,” she said.
“As something which has been co-developed by young patients who have been through a cancer experience, I think it will make a huge difference in supporting other young people and making them feel less alone. If you’re having an ‘up’ or a ‘down’ day, it will provide articles that support you.”
Paul Landau, CEO of Careology said: “Going through cancer at any age is incredibly tough but when you’re young and missing out on school or social activities it’s especially hard.
“It’s been great to be able to codesign and develop the app in a way which specifically works for this group of patients at The Royal Marsden. We want every young adult who uses the Careology app to feel more informed and empowered with access to digital support whenever and wherever they need it.”
Careology plans to share the content in the app with other hospitals wishing to help teen and young adult cancer patients.
A diagnosis of cancer can be devastating for anyone, but particularly so for young people. It’s good to see the Royal Marsden take the initiative by offering mental health support through a digital app – a medium that most young people feel comfortable with.
The hospital took exactly the right approach in making sure it consulted the young patients themselves, allowing them to choose the provider and give advice on the content they thought was appropriate. This is a model that could be used with any young people experiencing serious illness, and we hope it will be adopted by other hospital trusts.
If you’d like to find out more about digital tools that can support people with their mental health, you can search our online guide: https://futurecarecapital.org.uk/digital-mental-health-tools-guide/