Innovator Spotlight Q&A Series: Areej El-Jawahri, MD
The Center for Innovation in Digital HealthCare Innovator Spotlight is a Q&A series that celebrates innovative ideas, highlights the important work that digital health innovators are doing to advance patient care and outcomes at Mass General Hospital, and shares key learnings about the innovation journey.
We are pleased to feature Areej El-Jawahri, MD, CIDH’s Program Director, Outcomes Research; Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director of Digital Health, Associate Director of Cancer Outcomes Research and Education Program (CORE), Mass General Hospital Cancer Center.
Q: Tell us about your innovation and the challenge(s) you were trying to solve.
AE: I am an oncologist specializing in the care of patients with blood cancers. My work is focused on developing and testing digital health interventions to improve the quality of life and care of patients with blood cancers and their families across the continuum of their illness.
Q: The innovation process can be long and challenging, but also rewarding. What inspired you to begin this journey?
AE: My earlier work focused on developing and testing supportive care interventions delivered by mental health and palliative care clinicians to address the immense psychosocial needs of patients with blood cancers. In the process, I learned that we require different models of care to enhance access and dissemination of evidence-based supportive care interventions to support our patients and their families. Digital health interventions have the potential to enhance the scalability of dissemination of our supportive care interventions to improve the lived experience of patients with blood cancers.
In the process, I learned that we require different models of care to enhance access and dissemination of evidence-based supportive care interventions to support our patients and their families.
Q: Please tell us about your overall experience and some of the major milestones you’ve achieved so far? What are the next steps?
AE: Collaborating with my colleagues at the Mass General Hospital Cancer Outcomes Research and Education Program (CORE), we have developed seven digital health mobile applications focused on improving the quality of life and promoting effective coping for patients with cancer. These digital interventions span the continuum of illness from the time of diagnosis of cancer to survivorship and even focus on end-of-life care for patients with advanced cancer. We are currently conducting multiple randomized clinical trials to assess the efficacy of these interventions for improving the quality of life and care of patients with cancer. One of our digital health interventions recently received a breakthrough designation as a potential digital therapeutic to improve the quality of life and reduce depression and anxiety symptoms for patients newly diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
Q: What resources have been most helpful to you, and that you think other MGH innovators would benefit from?
AE: My introduction to the Center for Innovation and Digital Health has been critical for enhancing my understanding regarding how to best strategically partner with external innovators to promote the future dissemination and large implementation of our digital health interventions. Their consultation and feedback have been incredibly helpful for our team.
Q: What advice would you give to other innovators at MGH that you wish you had been given early in your innovation journey?
AE: Pursue your passion and think big regarding how to best scale and implement your innovative solution to revolutionize the care paradigm for our patients and their families.