Flashback to 2018: Alexandra Schmid, Head of Patient Partnership at Roche Pharmaceuticals Schweiz AG, is in a workshop. In attendance with her are over 30 breast cancer patients, doctors, nursing staff and other colleagues from Roche. The questions to be answered today: What will the digital world look like for patients in a few years? What contribution can Roche make to improving the daily lives of patients?
"During the workshop, it soon became apparent: What patients miss is networking with other affected people and exchanging information," says Schmid. The idea of an app was born.
What was still in its infancy in 2018 entered the market in 2021 as an app called Focus Me. The app is aimed at patients with breast cancer or gynaecological tumours and has over 1000 users in Switzerland and Germany. When you register as a patient on the app, you have the option of providing personal details, e.g., the type of cancer you have, how old you are, where you live, etc. You can also enter topics that interest you, such as partnership, job, family, exercise or mindfulness. In a subsequent step, the app uses a matching system to identify which patients in the region have entered similar features or topics. You can then connect to each other through the chat and you will be shown suitable events based on your profile.
Focus Me is a secure and protected digital platform that complies with European and Swiss security standards. User data is subject to stringent security standards. Roche will never have access to or be able to view patients’ personal or medical data.
In addition to patients, the app is also used by health professionals. "That way, doctors and nursing staff can offer their patients further added value, as they can exchange information via the chat function if desired" explains Schmid. For example, nursing staff can use the app to open a chat group on a specific topic ("How do I deal with hair loss?"). In this way, several patients can be informed at once, and information can be echanged on a specific topic. Patient organisations are also part of the app. They know about relevant events or are themselves the organisers, which means they can feed these events into the app and alert patients of them.
Schmid is convinced that the app fulfills its purpose: "I know two patients who live very close to one another and who've gotten to know each other through the app. Both of them told me that without Focus Me, they probably wouldn't have become acquainted, but that their friendship has helped them significantly through the struggles of treatment and beyond. Stories like this reinforce for me how we've done the right thing with Focus Me."
On the one hand, the app aims to offer cancer patients a simple way to connect, and on the other hand, it provides them with information about cancer-related events. Schmid says: "It was important for us to involve patients, not only in the starter workshop, but also to have them on board during development. That's why we've set up a committee of patients and doctors, which has continued to provide us with valuable feedback throughout the development phase."
The Roche-initiated website
In future, the app will be made available not only to patients with breast cancer or gynaecological tumours, but also to patients with other diseases. Relatives of patients will also be able to register. Schmid says: "With Focus Me, we have the potential to improve the daily lives of even more people. We want to take advantage of that."
More information about the Focus Me app is available on the
The app is now supported by more than 12 partners, including for example Pink Ribbon Switzerland, Europa Donna - the Swiss Society of Senology, and the three breast centres that helped develop the app.
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