Cancer patients often need to be seen in the hospital because of the side effects of treatment. Now, a new clinical trial in Boston is testing whether patients can receive supportive care from home and avoid trips to the ER.
Miah Newman has stage four nasal pharyngeal cancer. The 47-year-old receives chemotherapy and radiation. Newman's getting her supportive care in her own home through a clinical trial from Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and the group Medically Home.
"We can have somebody join us on the video of their primary oncology team if they want to see the patient while I'm there," said Melissa Smith, a nurse practitioner with Medically Home. "We work closely together to keep that patient on track with their treatment and improving their quality of life through the symptom management."
The program involves active monitoring of symptoms. Patients input their vitals and symptoms into an iPad daily.
"As soon as my heart rate goes high, it's like you get a phone call," Newman said.
Dr. Areej El-Jawahri is with Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.
She said it's "the idea of being able to capture warning signs, diagnose a problem, address it at home, before it becomes a bigger problem that requires a patient to be hospitalized."
"It definitely gives me some relief to know that people are watching out for me," Newman said.
The clinical trial began before the pandemic, but patients say avoiding the hospital now when they can is a big plus.
"It's really enabled me to continue working, it's been able to continue having me around the family," Newman said. "I feel much safer being here. So, there's a lot of just reducing risk, and it's been really good."
Newman is also able to receive some chemotherapy at home, making this tough time a little easier.
It's estimated that more than 18% of cancer patients need hospitalization or immediate treatment within a month of receiving chemo because of side effects.