3rd February 2023
Tallaght University Hospital (TUH) and its interdisciplinary Chronic Pancreatitis team recently showcased an innovative mobile phone app, termed the SmartCP app, that empowers patients to take control of their chronic pancreatitis. It will also improve communication with the hospital team. The app will streamline and coordinate patient management, and will enable TUH to care for patients in their homes and communities, aligning with TUH’s vision of being ‘a hospital without walls’.
Chronic pancreatitis patient and member of the patient advocacy group, Chronic Pancreatitis Ireland, Ms Edel Rasmussen, said:
“As a patient with chronic pancreatitis, I’m really looking forward to having this app. I think it will help us immensely as this disease is so complicated and every patient is unique in their diagnosis and in the symptoms that they experience. By having access to SmartCP, I hope that we can help each other, while also having the expertise of Professor Conlon and his colleagues to guide us through this difficult pancreatitis journey.”
Chronic pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas is inflamed and becomes progressively more damaged over time. It is incurable and management centres around dealing with symptoms and complications as they arise. Patients with chronic pancreatitis suffer from debilitating gastro-intestinal symptoms, they often lose weight and become malnourished. As the disease progresses, they develop diabetes, osteoporosis and nutrient deficiency. Patients typically suffer from severe, untreatable, abdominal pain. Patients also have a higher than normal lifetime risk of developing pancreatic cancer. They are complex patients requiring specialist, multidisciplinary care.
TUH runs the biggest centre for chronic pancreatitis care on the island of Ireland and currently has more than 300 patients on their clinical database. Many of these live outside of Dublin. There are several types of out-patient clinics for chronic pancreatitis per week, including a Clinical Nurse Specialist led clinic and a specialist type 3c diabetes clinic. TUH research has shown that Ireland has among the highest numbers in Europe of those suffering from chronic pancreatitis.
According to Professor Kevin Conlon, project lead, the hospital is “very well placed to take a lead on the development of this technology. We run the only dedicated chronic pancreatitis service nationally, providing care for over 300 patients. This new digital tool will improve patient access to specialist care, no matter where they live in the country. The team and I are grateful to DPER (Dept of Public Expenditure and Reform) who awarded us with the Innovation funding, to the Meath Foundation who have funded much of our research over the years, and to the Innovate Health Team in TUH for their ongoing support and encouragement. Our Clinical Nurse Specialist, Ms Marie Egan, is central to both the running of our service and to the practical rollout of this innovative technology.”
Dr Sinead Duggan, project co-lead adds that “chronic pancreatitis is a complex disease requiring specialist, multidisciplinary management. Our overall aim is to keep our patients healthier for longer, and to keep them out of hospital. SmartCP will empower patients, improving their quality of life and wellbeing. Whilst we have built a robust research programme over the last decade, traditionally chronic pancreatitis has been very much a neglected condition. We envisage that SmartCP will represent the lynchpin that enhances the quality of our service and facilitates a shift from illness to wellness, and ultimately towards an integrated care programme for chronic pancreatitis.”
Dr Natalie Cole, Head of Innovation, noted that “the work to date in developing Smart CP is a great example of industry, academia and healthcare working together to develop an enabling technology to support our clinical team and empower our patients. We are very grateful to the Public Service Innovation Fund for their support for innovative ideas such as this.”
Through this new development, patients are able to react more quickly to deteriorating health. The app contains text and video educational content about the pancreas, chronic pancreatitis, diabetes, nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, and pancreatic cancer, as well as informational videos from the multidisciplinary team.
With improved disease management there will be less attendances to ED, fewer crisis phone calls, a reduction in emergency admissions and hospitalisation, and a more rational allocation of clinic time to those who need it - preventing unnecessary follow-up in some cases.