According to Pew Research, 72% of internet users looked online for health information this past year.
This is good because the more patients understand about their particular disease or treatment, the better equipped they are to manage symptoms or side effects. And poor health literacy is an independent risk factor for poor health outcomes, such as unnecessary hospitalizations and decreased treatment compliance.
Cancer patients, facing a life-threatening illness, tend to be especially eager to learn about their disease and therapies. This desire to learn is not easily satiated in the limited time that patients have with their healthcare providers. And visits to the clinic can be stressful. So it’s not surprising that many patients seek information online, where they can process it in a comfortable setting of their choosing.
But consulting Dr. Google is not the best solution.
People seeking to educate themselves about a particular cancer or therapy online have to contend with a proliferation of information that many are ill equipped to navigate. In some instances, learning about outcomes and risks that aren’t appropriate to a patient’s particular circumstances can result in more harm than benefit.
Thanks to the digitization of our health records, there now exists a happy medium between wading through the multitude of online sources and grasping at the bit of information that can be gleaned during isolated clinic visits.
At Navigating Cancer, we partner with oncologists to give patients education materials that are filtered according to each patient’s particular disease or treatment options via a service called Navigating Care EducateTM. The Navigating Care EducateTM library consists of hundreds of educational articles from sources such as the National Cancer Institute and the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists and is updated regularly. In this fashion, we can both automate and customize the patient education process, enabling cancer care providers to send their patients electronic (or hard copy) materials at the time of a cancer diagnosis and/or at the point(s) in each patient’s treatment regimen where the subject matter is most relevant.
In 2015, over 15,000 pieces of patient education were delivered through this service, and we saw a 14% increase in time on therapy, on average, relative to similar patient populations who did not receive the same materials.
What we’ve learned is that better-informed patients are more engaged in their treatment plans, paving the way to better adherence and greater satisfaction all around.