Digestive Care Innovations Hub

Personalized Care & Precision Medicine

An App to Improve Outcomes for Patients with GI Cancer

Cancer treatment can be challenging and complicated for older adults, especially those living with chronic health conditions, like diabetes or heart disease. By closely monitoring older patients before and after cancer surgery, doctors can help reduce the risk of complications and costly hospital readmissions. At NewYork-Presbyterian, a doctor has created a mobile application to do just that.

Dr. Heather Yeo, a surgical oncologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, has developed mHeals, an app for patients undergoing abdominal cancer surgery to monitor their health before and after the procedure. Currently in the trial phase, the app tracks mobility, pain, fluid intake, and dietary factors to help her team identify when to intervene.


The app monitors patients in the perioperative period. Some of the features of the app include:

  • All patients enrolled on mHEALS are given a Fitbit Flex, which is used to monitor walking habits before and after the surgical procedure.
  • Data collection through regularly scheduled patient surveys.
  • Daily request for patients to take photos of these relevant sites.
  • Pre- and post-op reminders for patients to perform simple activities.
  • Reminders to drink water, walk, be active, and complete daily tasks.

The pilot program, which began recruiting patients in 2018, has about 60 patients enrolled. Dr. Yeo anticipates enrolling an additional 90 patients over the next few years of the program. She says by having access to this data, her team can better assess the needs of the patients.


"When you're rounding on patients in the hospital, you can ask them, 'how's it going? Have you been up and moving today?' They'll tell you 'yes, I walked today.' But with the app, you can look at their step count and compare it to the step count before surgery," Dr. Yeo says. "We have patients upload photos of their incisions. Being able to look at those photos every day after they've gone home is invaluable."

She says being able to keep track of her patients through the app also allows her to get a sense of the patient's emotional wellbeing over time. "There is a lot you can tell from imaging how a patient is doing. Subtle things like changes in cleanliness, how they're taking care of their incisions provides so much information that you might not get from a phone call," Dr. Yeo says.

Dr. Yeo hopes to use the data from the pilot program to better predict outcomes for future patients. She says with the data, she may be able to help patients anticipate pain levels, recovery time, and other factors that are currently unknown.

She says: "Right now, all a surgeon can tell a patient is anecdotal information. As we collect more and more information, we can provide more details as to how they'll recover."