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Her research could make waiting for radiotherapy easier – focusing on VGR

Her research could make waiting for radiotherapy easier – focusing on VGR

Screenshot of the single app. Please note that this is a trial version only. Right: Research leader Frieda Smith.

Applications where patients can make virtual visits to the radiation clinic before their visit, and read all the practical information, for example about how to work with an overnight stay. These are some of the innovations tested in Frieda Smith's research, which combines technology and nursing science and is making a difference for cancer patients while waiting for radiotherapy. Now she is being praised for her work.

Frieda Smith's research is in an area that has long fascinated her – how to absorb and make sense of information in difficult situations.

– In cancer care, patients are constantly asking for more information, but I thought the problem was not the amount of information, but the way it was conveyed. Freda Smith says presenting information in ways that doesn't work when patients are fearful, anxious, and perhaps severely affected by medications and illness.

With this in mind, she, together with her colleague Maria Proval and in collaboration with the Department of Radiology at Sahlgrenska University Hospital, started two projects. They assumed that patients awaiting radiation therapy for breast cancer could prepare at home in a safe and quiet environment.

Virtual visit to reception

Two weeks before their visit, patients were given access to an app through which they could make a virtual visit to the radiation clinic, with the option to click around the room. Then another app contained all the other information the patient might need before the visit, for example how to do with accommodation and links to public transport.

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Freda Smith. Photo: Emily Ljunggren

– We wanted to turn pointless waiting into meaningful preparation. “We in healthcare may not think the wait is very long, but for someone who has received a report that they have cancer, it can be considered unimaginably long,” she says.

This year's award winner

Freda Smith is a Research Leader at the Western Regional Cancer Centre, a Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing, and has work experience as a specialist oncology nurse and also works as an Associate Professor at Chalmers University of Technology.

She can now also add winners of the Henry Woolman Awards to her CV, an award given annually by the Chalmers Medicine and Technology Foundation.

-It feels so fun! After all, there are many who have invented technical innovations and who have received this award before me. Innovative, different, and more targeted to patients. “It's amazing how happy you feel when you get the award,” she says.

The justification states, among other things, that it has succeeded in “translating academic ideas into real improvements in health care.”

– Yes, those are very nice words which of course make one very proud to hear them. We don't save lives with our projects, but we may make life more bearable and easier to manage. At the same time, it helps improve resource consumption in our combined healthcare system.

Patients feel safe

Evaluations of the first application for radiation patients are currently being conducted with the help of PhD student Annika Green. The published results actually look good.

– Patients say that they feel safe when receiving radiation therapy, that they get to know themselves, and that they do not have many questions. They've also been able to share it with their loved ones, so the grandchildren can, for example, see what Grandma is going through.

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Technology must become a reality

Freda Smith thinks it's a good idea to go back to the radiation clinic and say, “Now we've tested this, and it works!”.

Therefore, the digital staff in the Västra Götaland region are now working more with applications, with the aim of being able to launch a digital solution that can be used by patients, as well as with other forms of cancer, while waiting for radiotherapy.

Test the application
Trial version of one application.

Freda Smith is already at the beginning stage of using insights from the research into a new project for a specific type of breathing technique during radiation therapy for breast cancer, also with the help of an app and home preparations.

Let technology and humanity meet

However, she believes that the fact that it has become an app has no inherent value in itself. As in her work at Chalmers, it is about allowing technology and humanity to meet and contributing that perspective to an often classically technical environment.

“We think technology itself is very exciting, but that's not our main point, but specifically how you can use technology to make people understand and feel more involved and prepared,” says Freda Smith.

Need to know a lot about the patient

This brings her back to an important question for her – that communication should be done equally, but with different inputs.

– As a healthcare professional, I have the necessary skills, but I also need to know a lot about you as a patient so you can use the information in your life. If you can use technology to make that possible, you've come a long way.

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Text: Evelina Westergren
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