Blue Devil of the Week: Creating a Palliative Care App

Dr. Christopher Cox’s app helps patients with serious illnesses and their families

Dr. Christopher Cox creates apps that help patients and their families.

“In the Medical Intensive Care Unit, you experience everything from the highest high to the lowest low, often within the same hour. More people die here than any other place in the hospital.  There is no denying that there can be intense grief, though I feel that it is our great privilege to at least try our best to help the patient and family as best we can. We built this web-based application that helps people make decisions on behalf of a loved one who is too ill to do it for themselves because they require life support. We did this because it is so common to see families going through a completely otherworldly experience that is stressful and anxiety-provoking. In this situation, it’s easy for the family members who are acting as substitute decision-makers to project their own beliefs and values on the situation instead of thinking about the decision from the perspective of the patient.  The application is very graphics-based and helps people navigate a very complex decision about life support. This can help the medical team understand what is on their mind, and might improve communication, reduce conflict and maybe even reduce anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among family members.”

Dr. Christopher Cox
Associate professor of medicine, Department of Medicine, Duke School of Medicine
Director, Duke Medical Intensive Care Unit
Director, Duke Program to Support People and Enhance Recovery
14 years at Duke

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