The Letsgo project combines long-distance medical monitoring with personal coaching. The objective is that patients make lifestyle changes and live longer and avoid unnecessary doctor’s visits.
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All women with a history of gynaecological cancer are monitored by a medical specialist during a period after their last treatment. However, women tend to wait to report any new symptoms if they know they have a doctor’s appointment in a few months’ time. In the meanwhile, they may have become seriously ill.
“Instead of increasing the number of doctor’s visits, we would rather refer patients to a specialized nurse who acts as a lifestyle coach. At the same time, we ask patients to report any symptoms themselves through a special app. The objective is that patients change their lifestyle and live longer, while the number of doctor’s visits is reduced simultaneously”, says professor Sveinung Berntsen.
Berntsen is Head of the Department of Sports Science and Physical Education at the University of Agder (UiA), and one of the instigators of project Letsgo, which is a collaboration between the university and Sørlandet Hospital and supported by the Norwegian Cancer Society and the South-Eastern Norway Regional Health Authority.
All patients participating in the research project receive access to an app. With regular intervals, this app sends out a questionnaire with regards to ten different signs of relapse In the event of a high score on any symptoms, they will be told to contact the hospital. In this way, it is possible to discover and monitor any relapse considerably earlier than previously.
The app will also help the patients to change their lifestyle. Users can set an activity goal, receive activity reminders, download adapted exercise programmes with illustrations and videos, and receive tailor-made information. Project participants are given a fitness tracker, which together with the app will help them obtain a more active lifestyle. Specially trained nurses will coach the process, explaining the individual patient how to integrate more physical activities into everyday life.
The following hospitals participate in the project:
“It is important to be regularly physically active and keep a healthy lifestyle, also for this group. Some patients may have reservations towards physical exercise, and we hope the app will be able to reduce these. A lifestyle with little physical activity can increase the chance of developing lifestyle diseases”, says Berntsen.
That the patients themselves take more responsibility for their own health situation is one of the most important elements of Letsgo.
Berntsen has done research on lifestyle, physical exercise and cancer for more than ten years. He explains that the monitoring procedure for cancer patients in remission is only to a very limited degree based on knowledge. We do not know enough either on how to motivate individual patients to take more responsibility for their own health situation, nor on how to get some patients to change their lifestyles without having a personal trainer moving in with them.
“If this turns out to be a good system to prevent relapse, obtain a healthier lifestyle, and save money, then it is only natural to think that it may become the new standard system for the monitoring period. The idea is that the future’s health care system can adapt and offer this system to new patients”, says Berntsen
Letsgo is at present on trial at five hospitals in Norway, from Kristiansand in the south to Tromsø in the north, with another five hospitals in the control group. Participants in the project vary from health economists to microbiologists, scientists in motivational research, fitness instructors, clinicians as well as patient organizations such as Gynkreftforeningen (Gynaecological Cancer Patient Organization).