Leveraging mobile health technology and research methodology to optimize patient education and self-management support for advanced cancer pain

Desiree R Azizoddin* (Corresponding Author), Rosalind Adam, Daniela Kessler, Alexi A Wright, Benjamin Kematick, Clare Sullivan, Haipeng Zhang, Michael J. Hassett, Mary E Cooley , Olga Ehrlich, Andrea C Enzinger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Patient education is critical for management of advanced cancer pain, yet the benefits of psychoeducational interventions have been modest. We used mobile health (mHealth) technology to better meet patients’ needs.
Methods: Using the Agile and mHealth Development and Evaluation Frameworks, a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, researchers, patients, and design specialists followed a four-phase iterative process to develop comprehensive, tailored, multimedia cancer pain education for a patient-facing smartphone application. The target population reviewed the content and provided feedback.
Results: The resulting application provides comprehensive cancer pain education spanning pharmacologic and behavioral aspects of self-management. Custom graphics, animated videos, quizzes, and audio-recorded meditations complemented written content. Computable algorithms based upon daily symptom surveys were used to deliver brief, tailored motivational messages that linked to more comprehensive teaching. Patients found the combination of pharmacologic and behavioral support to be engaging and helpful.
Conclusion: Digital technology can be used to provide cancer pain education that is engaging, and tailored to individual needs. A replicable interdisciplinary and patient-centered approach to intervention development was advantageous. MHealth interventions may be a scalable approach to improve cancer pain. Frameworks that merge software and research methodology can be useful in developing interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5741–5751
Number of pages11
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Early online date18 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding: National Institutes of Health [R21 NR017745, PI, Enzinger]; Friends of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Availability of data and material: The data that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to privacy or ethical restrictions.


  • mHealth
  • pain
  • cancer
  • technology
  • opioid
  • education
  • graphic design
  • symptom management


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