Objective: The use of mobile phone as a tool for improving cancer care in a low resource setting.
Methods: A total of 1176 oncology patients participated in the study. Majority had breast cancer. 58.4% of the patients had no formal education; 10.7 and 9.5% of patients had college or graduate education respectively. Two out of every three patients lived greater than 200 km from hospital or clinic. One half of patients rented a phone to call.
Results: At 24 months, 97.6% (1132 patients) had sustained their follow-up appointments as against 19.2% (42 patients) who did not receive the phone intervention. 72.8% (14 102 calls) were to discuss illness/treatment. 14% of the calls were rated as emergency by the oncologist. 86.2% of patients found the use of mobile phone convenient/excellent/cheap. 97.6% found the use of the phone worthwhile and preferred the phone to traveling long distance to hospital/clinic. Also the patients felt that they had not been forgotten by their doctors and were been taken care of outside the hospital/clinic.
Conclusions: Low resource countries faced with the burden of cancer care, poor patient follow-up and poor psychosocial support can cash in on this to overcome the persistent problem of poor communication in their healthcare delivery. The potential is enormous to enhance the use of mobile phones in novel ways: developing helpline numbers that can be called for cancer information from prevention to treatment to palliative care. The ability to reach out by mobile phone to a reliable source for medical information about cancer is something that the international community, having experience with helplines, should undertake with colleagues in Africa, who are experimenting with the mobile phone potential. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.