The young woman seems so healthy. Although she recently learned she has cancer, anyone would think she is coping well. When she arrives at her City of Hope clinic to talk to her doctor about her treatment strategy, she seems ready and eager to start therapy.
Few would guess that she is deeply scared about side effects and cancer’s impact on her family. She has barely slept in weeks.
|SupportScreen asks patients about common concerns during treatment. (Photo by p.cunningham)|
But professionals in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine know — because they evaluated the patient through SupportScreen, a touch-screen-based screening instrument developed in partnership with the Information Technology Services Department at City of Hope.
SupportScreen provides a way for new patients to report psychological, emotional, physical, rehabilitative, nutritional, spiritual and social concerns so that staff members can get them the help they need.
Health professionals first started using SupportScreen in medical oncology clinics on June 30.
“This has been a tremendous success,” said Matthew Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., Liliane Elkins Professor in Supportive Care Programs and administrative director of the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. “We’re gathering critical data about the concerns of our patients, and because results go immediately to our physicians, nurses, clinical social workers and other team members, we can act on those concerns individually to get patients as healthy, ready and whole as they can possibly be.”
The clinical staff, schedulers, clinical social workers and navigators recently began testing the portable touch-screen systems, which are smaller than a typical laptop, in a pilot program in the clinic of Stephen J. Forman, M.D., chair of the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation. Forman is enthusiastic about the technology’s potential among hematology patients, who comprise a substantial part of City of Hope’s patient base and often face challenging treatments.
“The information we learn through the screening will help us better support patients throughout their treatment,” said Forman, the Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation. “By finding out the needs of our patients and families before therapy begins, we can anticipate potential challenges and build on strengths to come up with solutions to their needs, both practical and spiritual.
“The screening process will uphold our commitment at City of Hope to treating the body and soul of all of our patients.”
Through the technology, patients have shared their concerns about fatigue, worries about the future, difficulty climbing stairs, pain and treatment side effects, among other topics, simply by pushing buttons on the screen.
The touch screen system also allows patients to request information privately about specific topics. This tailored educational information is provided automatically in real time during the clinic visit; themes include fertility, swelling, sadness, sleep and other issues.
Patients also can ask to speak to someone about specific topics. Frequent requests have covered fear of medical procedures and understanding treatment options. Afterward, an electronic report immediately goes to the appropriate physician, nurse, physician assistant, social worker or other applicable clinical staff members.
Response has been positive so far.
“Interestingly, men seem to respond very well to the touch screens,” said Karen Clark, program manager for the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. “Some patients seem to be able to answer questions about their concerns more easily when they can think about it at their own pace and do it in nonthreatening way.”
Department of Supportive Care Medicine staff plans to analyze and share data from the screenings with other care providers nationwide. Already, several medical centers are in talks with City of Hope to license the SupportScreen system in their own institutions.
“We couldn’t be happier with the screening process,” said Loscalzo, who credited hospital administration and staff. “Ultimately, our patients and their families stand to benefit.”