Developing a digital health intervention to support young adults with cancer: The e-Prehabilitation Study


Session type:


Lisa McCann1,Kathryn McMillan1,Chris Hewitt2
1University of Strathclyde,2NHS Lothi



A cancer diagnosis in adolescence or young adulthood can have a significant physical and emotional impact on an individual. While many young adults manage to adjust to a cancer diagnosis and find ways of coping, psychosocial interventions aimed at promoting wellbeing and developing resilience in the early stages of cancer diagnosis and treatment may aid longer term coping. The concept of delivering an intervention, physical and/or psychosocial, during the period between diagnosis and treatment commencement is defined as prehabilitation.


The aim of this study was to conduct a co-design research project to inform the development of a digital health intervention designed to support young adults with cancer from the time of their diagnosis onwards. A collaborative approach to data collection and prototype design was adopted to ensure a patient-centred approach was embedded throughout. The study was completed in May 2019.


A range of interviews and survey based activities were conducted with n=13 young adults, n=15 health care professionals and n=3 digital health professionals to design, develop and evaluate the new prototype application created in this project. The working name for the application is Cancer Helpmate. Included features and functionalities directly reflect the experiences and feedback of participants during the co-design activities. 


It was evident that a range of age-appropriate, age-targeted, good quality and, when read, very helpful information is already provided to young adults with cancer, predominately via traditional paper written materials. However, the provision of written information and the timing of its delivery are often overwhelming for young adults, impacting negatively on their engagement with the material and information. In this study, we sought to address these issues and other components in the wider ecosystem of supportive care in the context of prehabilitation (for example diet, exercise, self-care) for young adults with cancer by developing a prototype app that centralises and personalises this information. We know there is an appetite for more digitally driven services for young adults with cancer and Cancer Helpmate has definite scope to augment the services provided by young adult cancer teams in the future.