Monash Nurse Empowering Cancer Patients through Mobile App

Lung cancer nurse consultant Sara McLaughlin-Barrett

Lung cancer nurse consultant Sara McLaughlin-Barrett

Monash Health Lung cancer nurse consultant Sara McLaughlin-Barrett has developed a mobile application (app) that enables cancer patients to take control of their day-to-day treatment plan, record symptoms and treatment side effects.

The app, called ‘My Cancer Pal’ allows people to access key management and support tools, combined with reliable, peer-reviewed information. Patients can use the app to manage their appointment calendar, keep track of their (ever-changing) medications, track their pain levels and access a contact list of medical professionals.

In addition to offering these support tools to the person living with cancer, the app also provides the elected carer of the individual with weekly updates, showing the patients’ pain levels, current medication list and upcoming appointments for the week ahead.

Sara spent two years researching, planning and putting together the My Cancer Pal app. She gathered information from a vast array of sources and would spend four to five hours every night after work translating this information into language patients and their carers can understand.

The inspiration for the app hit Sara like a bolt of lightning during a consultation with a patient who had complex care needs. The patient was worried about remembering everything she needed to know after her appointment. It was in that moment that Sara knew what she could do for this patient and many others: develop an app that holds all the information they need in the one place.

My Cancer Pal is available worldwide, and with its multi-user functionality it allows patients and carers to engage with their clinicians throughout their cancer journey.

Despite its target audience being people with cancer, the app is utilised by non-cancer patients too. Chronic pain sufferers make use of the pain tracker to keep a record of their pain levels, enabling better pain management.

Sara, who has worked at Monash Health for almost four years, estimates that she spent around 500 hours researching and writing the content for this app. And while she received a generous kick-start grant from Telematics Trust, the significant majority of capital put into the project came from Sara’s own personal savings.

Sara said that the Monash Lung and Sleep team have been incredibly supportive of her app. Her colleagues are among the thousands of people who use My Cancer Pal. Sara also receives support and business advice from Sam Aston, her co-director at My Cancer Pal.

The app continues to expand and morph as Sara receives requests from patients and clinicians worldwide for elements to be included. After speaking at the Australian Lung Cancer Conference in Melbourne earlier this year, Sara was approached by a number of researchers with interest in My Cancer Pal.

My Cancer Pal can be downloaded for free from the App store.