Leveraging a Consumer-Based Product to Develop a Cancer-Specific Mobile Meditation App: Prototype Development Study

Jennifer Huberty, Nishat Bhuiyan, Taylor Neher, Lynda Joeman, Ruben Mesa, Linda Larkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Mobile meditation apps may offer a long-term, accessible, and effective solution for ongoing symptom management in cancer patients/survivors. However, there are currently no commercial cancer-specific meditation apps that reflect cancer specialist expertise, input from cancer patients/survivors, and features and content specific to cancer patients’/survivors’ needs. Objective: The aim of this study was to gain insight (via surveys, daily journals, and focus groups) from cancer patients/survivors, health care providers, and current subscribers of Calm (a consumer-based mobile meditation app) who were patients/survivors to develop a prototype of a mobile meditation app specifically designed for cancer patients/survivors. Methods: Participants were recruited via prior partnerships, word-of-mouth referrals, and recruitment posts on Facebook and Instagram. Cancer patients/survivors and health care providers were instructed to download and use the Calm app for at least 10 minutes a day for 7 days, complete an online daily journal for 7 days, and participate in a virtual focus group (one for cancer patients/survivors and one for providers). Current Calm subscribers who were cancer patients/survivors completed an online survey about different aspects of the Calm app and participated in a third virtual focus group. Data were qualitatively analyzed using a combination of deductive and inductive coding. Results: A total of 27 participants (11 cancer patients/survivors, 10 health care providers, 6 current Calm subscribers) completed the study. Similar themes and subthemes were found across surveys, daily journals, and focus groups, and fell into two major categories, content and functionality, with cancer-specific and noncancer-specific themes identified within each category. The majority of content preferences and suggestions that arose were cancer-specific, such as content related to negative emotions or feelings (eg, anxiety, grief, trauma/posttraumatic stress disorder, fear of recurrence, isolation), positive feelings and finding meaning (eg, gratitude, storytelling, acceptance), scenarios and experiences (eg, waiting, treatment-specific mediations), type and stage of cancer journey, and movement modifications. Some of the noncancer-specific themes under app content included sleep, music, and visualizations. In terms of app functionality, the majority of participants expressed interest in having a section/tab/area of the app that was specifically geared toward cancer patients/survivors. Preferences and suggestions for cancer-specific functionality features included options based on symptoms or journey, being able to communicate with other patients or survivors to share suggestions for specific meditations, and having an emergency toolkit for patients/survivors. Conclusions: Findings from cancer patients/survivors, health care providers, and current Calm subscribers who were patients/survivors to be incorporated into the development of the prototype fell into two major categories: (1) content of the app and (2) functionality of the app. The prototype’s form and function will be pilot-tested among 30 cancer patients/survivors in a 4-week study, and the resulting feasibility data will be used to inform the final app design and an efficacy study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere32458
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • App development
  • Cancer patients/survivors
  • MHealth
  • Meditation
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Leveraging a Consumer-Based Product to Develop a Cancer-Specific Mobile Meditation App: Prototype Development Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this