Exploring Cancer Patients’ Perceptions of Accessing and Experience with Using the Educational Material in the Opal Patient Portal


Purpose: Opal is a new patient-centered mobile application that gives cancer patients access to their real time medical data in conjunction with disease- and treatment-specific patient education material. Few studies have focused on patients’ experiences with such mobile applications. This study’s objectives were to (1) explore cancer patients’ perceptions of accessing the educational materials through Opal and (2) explore their experiences using these educational materials.

Methods: A qualitative descriptive design was used. Patients were invited to participate in the study via Opal itself. Semistructured individual interviews were done in person or over the phone, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using qualitative content analysis.

Results: Nine women were interviewed. Three themes were identified as participants spoke about their perceptions of and experiences with Opal. First, Opal makes me feel like I have more control, conveying how learning more about their diagnosis and treatments allowed patients to advocate for themselves and plan their care. Second, Opal tends to reassure me, illustrating that having access to information was reassuring. Lastly, Opal is just starting to have information which could help meet my needs, reflecting patients’ belief Opal is on the right track but could provide more of their medical record, treating team contact information and education material.

Conclusions: Patients can feel more empowered when using patient-centered mobile applications, and mobile applications have potential for improving collaboration with healthcare professionals and care coordination. Healthcare professionals, including oncologists and nurses, should support patients’ use of mobile applications and integrate them in their patient interactions.

In Supportive Care in Cancer
John Kildea
John Kildea
Associate Professor (tenured) of Medical Physics
Andrea Laizner
Andrea Laizner
Associate Investigator, RI MUHC & Assistant Professor, Ingram School of Nursing