For Myeloma Patients, Better Engagement through Technology

New technologies are making tracking and sharing test results easier than ever.

It’s no secret that patients who take an active role in their health care have better outcomes and care experiences. For myeloma patients, tracking test results can help them be more engaged with their disease and treatment, and technology is making that easier to do.

“It’s really all about patient empowerment and getting these tools out there to be customized for a particular patient’s disease,” Jenny Pettit, CoMMunity Gateway manager at the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, said.

Tracking test results can allow myeloma patients to feel more in control. It can also help improve coordination between the multiple doctors, specialists and hospitals that patients often visit.

Regular lab work helps doctors track the progression of their patient’s multiple myeloma. Blood tests measure the levels of different antibodies, which can be disrupted by myeloma and affect a patient’s ability to fight infections. Electrophoresis tests identify the levels of monoclonal-protein (M-protein), an abnormal antibody produced by malignant myeloma cells. Chemistry profiles measure the levels of blood components that are associated with myeloma-related symptoms such as decreased kidney function and tumor cell burden.

Traditionally, myeloma patients have relied on collecting test results in manila folders or jotting them down in a ledger. But today, myeloma patients have several online options to monitor, track and analyze their lab results.

One such option, designed by Celgene, is the Track My Multiple Myeloma smartphone app. Users can keep track of their appointments, record test results, store contacts and share information with family and their doctors.

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“It’s a tool that patients can use to empower their care and track their appointments and health information,” Pettit said.

The Myeloma Manager: Personal Care Assistant, developed by the International Myeloma Foundation, provides myeloma patients another way to oversee their myeloma treatment program. With this free software, patients can organize their lab results, take notes and print reports from their computer.

Meanwhile, the MMRF CoMMunity Gateway provides an online community where myeloma patients can interact and learn from one another as well as track their disease progression and treatment response. Over 2,000 patients have already logged on to the site since it officially launched late last year.

“We are seeing patients, 20-somethings who are tech savvy as well as baby boomers, logging onto the site with their iPads and asking questions on our support center,” Pettit said.

According to a 2014 survey by Digitas Health, 90 percent of patients and caregivers said they would use a health app if their physician prescribed it to help better manage their condition. By suggesting effective technologies that help patients track their multiple myeloma, doctors have an opportunity to engage and empower their patients, which could lead to better outcomes and care experiences.