A bridge from uncertainty to understanding : the meaning of symptom management digital health technology during cancer treatment

Darley, Andrew and Coughlan, Barbara and Maguire, Roma and McCann, Lisa and Furlong, Eileen (2023) A bridge from uncertainty to understanding : the meaning of symptom management digital health technology during cancer treatment. Digital Health, 9. ISSN 2055-2076 (https://doi.org/10.1177/20552076231152163)

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Objective: Digital health technology is valued as a tool to provide person-centred care and improve health outcomes amongst people with cancer and their family caregivers. Although the evidence to date shows encouraging effectiveness, there is limited knowledge regarding the lived experience and personal meaning of using supportive technology during cancer treatment. The aim of this study was to explore the lived experiences of people with colorectal cancer receiving chemotherapy using digital health symptom management technology and their family caregivers. Methods: A longitudinal and multi-perspective interpretative phenomenological analytical approach was adopted including three people with newly diagnosed colorectal cancer and four family caregivers. Findings: Three superordinate themes and related subthemes were identified. The first theme (The 3 Cs of symptom management technology) centred on the continuity of care that participants felt while using the technology. The second theme (Digital health technology as a psychosocial support) offered insights into the psychological benefits using technology incurred as they navigated their cancer diagnosis including sense of control and psychological safety. The final theme (Impact of digital health technology on family caregivers) details the supportive effect the technology had on family caregivers’ role, responsibilities and well-being during the cancer experience. Conclusion: Digital health technology can act as a bridge from uncertainty to an understanding regarding a cancer diagnosis and its treatment. Digital health technology can support peoples' understanding of cancer and enhance self-management practices, while being a psychological support in navigating the uncertain and often worrying period of receiving cancer treatment.