May 20, 2015 — Behavioral health technology company Polaris Health Directions and MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper have signed a memorandum of understanding to partner on an integrated medical-behavioral health pilot project. The project will use the Apple Watch to capture behavioral data that could affect the courses and outcomes of treatment for breast cancer patients.
The partnership brings together MD Anderson Cooper’s expertise in oncology and Polaris’s experience in behavioral health science and innovative technology. It will leverage Polaris’s Polestar behavioral health outcomes management (BHOM) platform — an advanced data collection and analytics platform that provides meaningful, actionable results for reporting on and monitoring of a patient’s expected treatment response.
“Via our secure Polestar platform, behavioral data captured through the Apple Watch will combine with medical data from the patients’ electronic health records within the Cooper health system and population health data,” explained Tina Harralson, Ph.D., Polaris science director. Data will include treatment side effects, sleep information, physical activity levels, patient mood, and other inputs.
“The impact of the integration of behavioral health in cancer care is significant. A positive frame of mind can help a patient through all phases of diagnosis and treatment,” said Generosa Grana, M.D., FACP, director of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper and head of the division of hematology/medical oncology at Cooper University Hospital.
“Patient engagement is a critical factor in successful treatment plans,” Grana continued. “We expect using the Apple Watch will help increase engagement and collect data that ultimately allows us to further refine treatment plans.”
She added: “Polaris and Cooper’s oncology team have been research partners for almost a decade and have collaborated on six studies related to behavioral health with funding from the National Institutes of Health. If results of this pilot prove promising, the partnership will pursue a National Cancer Institute research grant for a full-scale breast cancer project.”
Grana noted that MD Anderson Cooper’s director of behavioral medicine, Cori McMahon, Psy.D., will be medical project lead, working with Polaris on the breast cancer pilot.
Polaris will underwrite the devices (Apple Watch Sport 38mm models with pink straps) and development of the app, being responsible for configuration, scientific content design, deployment, monitoring and support for the wearables platform.
MD Anderson Cooper will select a group of breast cancer patients in active treatment, provide personnel and support, and will consult on product design and usability within the health network, as well as within patients’ non-institutional settings. Their health professionals will review the data captured and provide patient support based on the analysis of the data.
The project will undergo review and ultimate approval by the Cooper Institutional Review Board. With the support of this board, MD Anderson Cooper and Polaris could then jointly publish project findings, at intervals to be determined.