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Mental Health + Treatment Tracker for Pediatric Cancer Patients

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The Problem

A major issue in healthcare is the gap between how mental health and physical health are treated. When a child is diagnosed with cancer there is no digital tool to track their mental health, which causes trauma to go unnoticed until issues physically present themselves in ways that impact the child's response to treatment.

The Solution

Journal RX is an app that tracks mental health in order to improve pediatric cancer treatment and reduce the burden of trauma and depression that many patients experience.

By tracking the patient's mental health, mood, and pain from the moment of diagnosis, through treatment and remission with a digital tool that connects to current hospital systems, care teams will have the data they need to address issues before they physically affect the patient by adjusting the patients' treatment plan on personal data rather than generalized statistics. 

The Development

The identification of this problem was first inspired by personal experience when my little sister was treated for osteosarcoma (bone cancer) at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and even now that she is years into remission the lack of resources for mental health in pediatric cancer is still an area of concern. In order to get straight to the source, the main research method for Journal RX has been interviewing a variety of providers, with a focus on nurses, social workers, and psychologists. This showed that providers see the need for Journal RX and are more than willing to adopt new technology. Further interviews with patients in remission showed that this lack of attention to mental health caused them to feel isolated and unheard. By involving the providers and patients from the beginning, Human-Centered Design has been a core focus while developing Journal RX. 

 

Providers interviewed from multiple hospitals (including Children's Hospital of Los Angles, Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center, Weill Cornell, and Children's Hospital of Oakland) acknowledged the need for Journal RX and said they would be more than willing to adopt it into their practice. 

After progressing through multiple rounds of elimination in the Cornell Tech Startup program, I built a team of health tech students, a data scientist, and three programmers. Together we created the prototypes shown below:

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The next steps for Journal RX would be looking for a clinical research partner in this work, reaching out to psychologists, MDs, and other mental health workers who are interested in the Journal RX mission and/or a cancer foundation, creating a focus group of former patients now in remission to prove efficacy before then applying for funding and/or partnering with a hospital to support app development. 

Additional Notes

Having seen how much a cancer diagnosis impacts a family, Journal RX will be implemented through hospitals (and eventually through insurance) so that the financial responsibility is never put on the family.

While the daily check-in is designed for the patient to input their own information, and we will continue to build the accessibility components, if some kids wish to complete it with the help of a family member - that would also encourage an opportunity to address a topic that many often put off due to the stigma of mental health - so this can also benefit the patient/family. 

While the original plan was to test these prototypes with the adolescent and young adult program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (as they had offered) it was then discovered an IRB (Institute Review Board) would be required to ethically obtain any data from a hospital which takes months/years to obtain.