July 2, 2013 | by Hiu Chung So
When facing a cancer diagnosis, patients and their caregivers may have trouble getting the supportive care they need; in fact, they may not even be fully aware of their challenges or the resources available to them.
Thus, it is key to screen patients so that persistent issues impacting treatment - from pain and nausea to depression and anxiety to financial and transportation obstacles - can be addressed in a timely manner. Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is leading the country's health systems to do just that.
The grant will fund a series of workshops to educate health professionals nationwide on how to screen patients for treatment-related issues, led by Matthew Loscalzo, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., the Liliane Elkins Endowed Professor in Supportive Care Programs, and program manager Karen Clark, M.S., from City of Hope's Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center.
"Many cancer patients report that it can be difficult to communicate their ongoing concerns with their doctors and other members of their health care team," Clark said. "Screening gives patients the opportunity to tell the team about any issues - physical, psychological, family, social, spiritual, financial or others - that may impact their care."
A component of the training involves the demonstration of SupportScreen, a touch-screen application developed at City of Hope. The tablet-based program prompts patients to answer various questions regarding their care and concerns. Depending on the responses, SupportScreen can alert the patients' health care teams to critical issues or risks; triage patients to appropriate professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists, pain specialists, social workers, chaplains and others; or connect them with relevant community resources and educational materials.
Previous research has shown that apps can be a cost effective, timely way to screen patients and connect them with appropriate resources. Further, patients may be more likely to share their concerns when prompted by a computer application rather than by a direct personal question.
Loscalzo and Clark hope that with improved screening, patients will make greater use of the supportive care resources and services available to them, ultimately leading to better treatment and outcomes.
The curriculum for the patient screening workshop is currently being developed and the first session is expected to begin in May 2014.
Research reported in this blogpost was supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under grant numbers R25CA174444. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.