ANN ARBOR, Mich., Sept. 18 In a study publishedby the Journal of Supportive Care in Cancer, researchers from ThomsonHealthcare found that when cancer patients used a handheld computer beforeoffice visits to rate and report their pain, fatigue, and depression, doctorswere significantly more likely to address these potentially debilitatingsymptoms and side effects. Thomson Healthcare is part of The ThomsonCorporation (NYSE: TOC; TSX: TOC).
The three-year study, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,evaluated the PACE System(TM) (Patient Assessment, Care and Education), whichuses notebook-sized tablet PCs equipped with touch-screen technology andspecialized software. When patients arrived for office visits, they used thehandheld computers to complete a self-assessment that automatically uploadedto a wireless network and produced a detailed, real-time report on theirsymptoms for their doctors.
Researchers assessed whether this technology effectively addressed achronic problem in cancer treatment: chemotherapy side effects often are notreported, diagnosed, or treated because patients lack information about thesuccess of interventions and physicians lack detailed, real-time informationon patients' symptoms.
"Many times, chemotherapy-related symptoms and side effects can beprevented or controlled, but they often go untreated because patients don'tbring them up and it's challenging for a busy oncology practice to incorporatesymptom screening into its daily workflow," said Tami Mark, Ph.D., associateresearch director at Thomson Healthcare and lead investigator for the study."This study found that the right technology can effectively address theproblem without burdening physicians or their staffs."
A review of patients' charts concluded that only nine percent wereassessed for depression before the symptom-screening system was implemented,compared with 73 percent afterward. The assessment rate for fatigue increasedfrom 63 percent to 92 percent, and the assessment of pain increased from 76percent to 97 percent.
"This study illustrates the value of health information technology, whenproperly designed with ongoing input from patients and providers, in improvingpatient outcomes and overall quality of care," said David K. Ahern, Ph.D.,national program director of the Health e-Technologies Initiative, theNational Program Office of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that sponsoredthe research.
A majority of physicians in the study reported that the system helped themidentify patient problems, focus their patient interviews, track changes inpatient symptoms, and document symptoms. Though the system increased theamount of time physicians spent discussing patients' symptoms, they were ableto focus on significant side effects and decrease the time spent onunimportant symptoms.
More than half the patients in the study said the assessment helped themremember symptoms, and 44 percent said it helped them discuss symptoms withtheir physician.
About the Study
The study was conducted by Thomson Healthcare; Supportive OncologyServices, Inc.; and Accelerated Community Oncology Research Network, Inc.Supportive Oncology Services, Inc. developed the technology evaluated in thestudy.
The authors are Tami L. Mark, Ph.D., from Thomson Healthcare, and BarryFortner, Ph.D., and Gina Johnson, M.S.N., both from Supportive OncologyServices, Inc. and Accelerated Community Oncology Research Network, Inc.
About Thomson Healthcare
Thomson Healthcare is the leading provider of decision support solutionsthat help organizations across the healthcare industry improve clinical andbusiness performance. Thomson Healthcare products and services helpclinicians, hospitals, employers, health plans, government agencies, andpharmaceutical companies manage the cost and improve the quality ofhealthcare. Thomson