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“The impact of the integration of behavioral health in cancer care is significant; a positive frame of mind can help patients through all phases of their diagnosis and treatment,” said Generosa Grana, MD, FACP, director of the MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. “Patient engagement is a critical factor in successful treatment plans.”

Starting December 1, 2015 an Apple Watch app from Polaris Health will be used in a nine month study of the effect of behavioral health in breast cancer course of treatment and outcomes. Polaris Health’s emPOWER app will capture relevant data via the iOS Health Kit application program interface (API) on a customized Apple Watch. The data will be monitored with Polaris’ Polestar platform with the ultimate goal of refining treatment plans for patient success and quality of life. The EmPOWER app will monitor patients’ behavioral health data such as treatment side effects, sleep information, physical activity levels, and patient mood. Patients will be able to monitor changes and patterns in their behavior and mindset during treatment and also use the app to communicate with other patients and their care team.

The understanding and proof of the influence of behavioral health on wellness and healing could get a significant boost with the Polaris/Apple/MD Anderson study. Passive measurement via a smart watch should result in objective data. The results may not only shape treatment plans, but also help to heighten patient insight and improve quality of life. This could have major implications for further development in treatment for breast and other cancers, as well as other medical conditions and diseases.