Evaluation of a smartphone app (My CML) to support patients with Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia

Nick Duncan & Andrea Preston, University of Birmingham


Over 34,000 people worldwide receive a new diagnosis of Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) each year.  In the past two decades, the management of CML has improved considerably due to the introduction of targeted oral treatments such as imatinib, which patients are required to take on a daily basis for many years.  Because CML is now regarded as a chronic disease, it is vitally important that patients can access appropriate tools to encourage and support them throughout their treatment journey.  Novel healthcare apps have the potential to empower patients to better manage their medical conditions and have been shown to offer concrete benefits such as increased knowledge and improved adherence rates.  This is particularly important in a disease such as CML where there is strong evidence that patients who adhere poorly to their prescribed treatment have significantly worse clinical outcomes than those who achieve high levels of adherence.  We therefore decided to focus on CML as an appropriate condition in which to investigate the role of apps in supporting patients.

Initially, we undertook an international questionnaire survey of CML patients to find out whether they had experience of using apps to manage their condition, whether they were interested in using apps in the future and what functions they would like an app to offer.  Having found out that current usage of apps was very low (11.5% of respondents) but interest was very high (>94% stated that they would consider using an app to help manage their CML) we are currently building a CML-specific app (My CML) based around the functionality that was most highly desired by our survey respondents.

Once the app has been launched (summer 2021) and has been available to patients for a number of months, the logical next step in the research cycle will be to evaluate its usability from a patient perspective and this will be the focus of our study.  We propose to use validated questionnaires followed by patient focus groups and interviews to address the following core objectives:

  1. Determine levels of uptake and engagement with the app amongst CML patients.
  2. Benchmark the app quality in relation to existing apps for cancer patients.
  3. Assess patients’ attitudes towards the app in relation to the following 3 domains: ease of use;  interface and satisfaction; usefulness.
  4. Explore patients’ perceptions of the app, its strengths and weaknesses and potential modifications to the app that would improve the user experience.

By critically evaluating the app, we will be able to determine the overall usability of the product and gain an understanding of which aspects work well for patients and which require further improvement.  We will also find out which (if any) aspects of the functionality are surplus to requirements and, importantly, what is potentially missing.  Armed with this information, we will then be able to further develop and improve the app, with the aim of producing an enhanced version that will deliver even greater benefits to CML patients across the world.

The plain English and technical research summaries are available to view here. The final report is available to view here.