Alberta smartphone app helps cancer patients understand care

Last August, Cliff Roberts had a conversation that changed every aspect of his life. But at the time, the Calgary man had a hard time processing all the information he needed to.

“I was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer. It had metastisized to my pelvis,” Roberts said.

“When you go into a consult like that, you can’t take everything in.”


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Fortunately, Roberts was given access to a new smartphone app he could use to record that important appointment, and many of the clinical conversations that followed.

“To have that on tape, it was awesome because we were able to go back after and listen to it and get things out of that we didn’t initially understand.”

“‘OK, we didn’t understand that portion of it… Oh, this is good. OK, this is the drug name. OK, we can do some more research on that.’”

According to Alberta Health Services, research shows patients may forget up to 80 per cent of healthcare information discussed at clinical visits. So, they developed a tool to help patients better understand their care and decrease the number of followup phone calls and visits needed.

The My Care Conversations app was created through a partnership of AHS and the Alberta Cancer Foundation. Available free to download, the app allows patients to not only record conversations with their care providers during clinical visits; but also share them with trusted friends and family members.

“Because those recordings contain sensitive information, we knew we wanted the app to provide an additional level of security,” said Dr. Dean Ruether, medical director of community oncology with AHS.

“For example, we’ve made it so the recordings cannot be altered after they’ve been shared without the patient noticing.”

Along with the voice recordings, the app allows users to take notes while a recording is taking place. Those notes are kept with the audio file and can be edited later.

“The advisers also helped us design a preparing-for-your-appointment’ function,” said Mauro Chies, AHS vice president of Cancer Control and Clinical Support Services.

“Patients can pre-select commonly asked questions or create their own questions that will automatically appear on their screen when they start their next recording.”

My Care Conversations is available for download on the Apple App Store and on Google Play for Android devices.

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