Development and implementation of an online program to improve how patients communicate emotional concerns to their oncology providers.
PURPOSE: Patients often struggle to express their emotional concerns to their oncology providers and may therefore experience unmet needs. This paper describes the development and implementation of an online program that teaches patients how to communicate their emotions to their oncology providers. METHODS: The intervention was developed by a multidisciplinary team consisting of palliative care physicians, psychologists, and an intervention software developer and included input from patients. It incorporated elements of Social Cognitive Theory and validated cognitive behavioral strategies for communication skills training. Strategies to increase intervention adherence were implemented midway through the study. RESULTS: The intervention consists of four interactive, online modules to teach patients strategies for expressing emotional concerns to their providers and asking for support. In addition to skill-building, the intervention was designed to raise patients' expectations that expressing emotional concerns to providers would be helpful, to enhance their self-efficacy for doing so, and to help them overcome barriers to having these conversations. After implementing strategies to improve adherence, usage rates increased from 47 to 64 %. CONCLUSIONS: This intervention addresses an unmet educational need for patients with advanced cancer. Strategies to increase adherence led to improvements in usage rates in this population of older patients. We are currently evaluating the intervention in a randomized clinical trial to determine its efficacy in increasing patient expression of emotional concerns and requests for support. If successful, this intervention could serve as a model for future online patient education programs.
Porter, LS; Pollak, KI; Farrell, D; Cooper, M; Arnold, RM; Jeffreys, AS; Tulsky, JA
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