Fox Chase Cancer Center Begins Pilot Program to Strengthen Patient Literacy

May 4, 2021
Jamie Cesanek

The Philadelphia-based cancer center has enrolled patients who receive port insertions in MyCareCompass, a new program that organizes patient information and provides educational content to help patients understand their treatment.

Fox Chase Cancer Center recently began using a patient education program called MyCareCompass, to directly tailor patient information and provide support modules that offer insight on treatment procedures and other relevant topics.

“I think sometimes what happens is we give patients these binders of information or we give them everything that they're going to need to know on this journey upfront,” said Linda Fleisher, an associate research professor for the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase and principal investigator for the pilot program.

“And the reality is, it probably needs to be packaged a little different. If I'm further in my treatment, I may need information that's more around side effects. If I'm newly diagnosed, I'm wanting to understand more about my disease and what are my treatment options. So the idea of this is to really kind of package it more to where that patient is and what their needs are.”

MyCareCompass was developed by Arches, a healthcare technology company, with the aim of helping patients process the mass amount of information they’re given, no matter what stage of treatment they’re in.

“It’s very overwhelming,” said Daniella Koren, founder of Arches. “So MyCareCompass was created to simplify that for patients. And it gives them bite-sized information in a more digital fashion, in a very health literacy friendly manner. Our intention with MyCareCompass was really to help prevent the fear and anxiety that goes along with the whole cancer care journey.”

The information is communicated to the patient through text messages or emails and integrates with the electronic medical record technology to update appointment schedules as well as health literacy information. Patients can access brief videos that demonstrate what to expect from a procedure or broader content that contains psychosocial information such as how to ask friends and family for social support.

The pilot program at Fox Chase has a multidisciplinary steering committee with representatives from the nursing, social work, patient education and information systems departments. It is targeted for patients receiving a port insertion, which is when a port device is used for vein access to distribute chemotherapy or draw blood.

The program notifies patients when they have an upcoming port insertion and explains what to expect through videos and messages. After the insertion, patients receive follow-up information on the insertion, how to receive support and a survey about their experience.

The patients can also opt to participate in a follow-up interview with Fleisher’s research team to provide insight for broader implementation of the program, which is being conducted over the course of the next three months.

“So far, we've gotten really positive feedback,’ said Fleisher. “Patients like it, they're actually telling their providers that they've gotten this information.”

Once patients are able to better understand the medical terms and procedures they are dealing with, it opens up the door for new dialogue with their healthcare providers.

“In general, when patients understand more about what's going on, they can ask better questions,” said Koren. “There can be a better relationship, because a lot of times when patients don't know, they sort of feel in the dark. They may shut down and not even know what questions to ask because it feels so overwhelming. But the more information that we can give patients about their treatment, their diagnosis, the better prepared they are to ask really good, pertinent questions and use their time with their clinicians very efficiently.”

Once the pilot program is complete and Fleisher and her team have evaluated the patients’ responses, she hopes to expand the type of content used on the platform.

“Right now, it’s a pretty focused group of patients,” said Fleisher. “So that will be our next step. We’re very excited about it, I think we see a lot of potential usage of this platform and trying to get this information to patients when they need it.”

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