Electronic Swallowing Intervention Package to Support Swallowing Function in Patients With Head and Neck Cancer: Development and Feasibility Study



Cowie J, Boa S, King E, Wells M & Cairns D (2018) Electronic Swallowing Intervention Package to Support Swallowing Function in Patients With Head and Neck Cancer: Development and Feasibility Study. JMIR Formative Research, 2 (2), Art. No.: e15.

Background: Many patients undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer (HNC) experience significant swallowing difficulties, and there is some evidence that swallowing exercises may improve outcomes, including quality of life. This feasibility study developed an evidence-based, practical Swallowing Intervention Package (SiP) for patients undergoing chemo-radiotherapy (CRT) for HNC. As part of the study, an electronic version of SiP (e-SiP) was concurrently developed to support patients to self-manage during treatment. This paper reports on the e-SiP component of this work. Objective: To develop and conduct preliminary evaluation of an electronic support system (e-SiP) for patients undergoing CRT for head and neck cancer. Methods: The study involved health professionals and patients who were undergoing CRT for head and neck cancer. The scoping stage of e-SiP development involved investigated the potential usefulness of e-SiP, exploring how e-SiP would look and feel and what content would be appropriate to provide. Patient and carer focus groups and a health professionals’ consensus day were used as a means of data gathering around potential e-SiP content. A repeat focus group looked at an outline version of e-SIP and informed the next stage of its development around requirements for tool. This was followed by further development and a testing stage of e-SiP involved the coding of a prototype which was then evaluated using a series of steering group meetings, semi-structured interviews with both patients and health care professionals, and analysis of e-SiP log data. Results: Feedback from focus groups and health professional interviews was very positive and it was felt e-SiP use would support and encourage patients in conducting their swallowing exercises. However, of the ten patients offered e-SIP, only two opted to use it. For these patients, aspects of the e-SIP application were considered useful, in particular the ease of keeping a diary of exercises performed. Interviews with users and non-users suggested significant barriers to its use. Most significantly the lack of flexibility of platform on which e-SiP could be accessed appeared a dominant factor in deterring e-SiP use. Conclusions: Results suggest a need for further research to be conducted around the implementation of e-SiP. This involves evaluating how e-SiP can be better integrated into usual care, and through patient training and staff engagement, can be seen as a beneficial tool to help support patients in conducting swallowing exercises.

Head and neck cancer; eHealth; self-management;

JMIR Formative Research: Volume 2, Issue 2

FundersChief Scientist Office
Publication date31/12/2018
Publication date online17/08/2018
Date accepted by journal12/06/2018
PublisherJMIR Publications Inc.

People (3)


Dr David Cairns

Dr David Cairns

Lecturer, Computing Science

Dr Emma King

Dr Emma King

Research Fellow, Faculty of Social Sciences

Professor Mary Wells

Professor Mary Wells

Honorary Professor, NMAHP

Projects (1)