Ano is a Justmeans staff writer for health, and an instructional designer for the newly created Master of Health Care Delivery program (mhcds.dartmouth.edu) at Dartmouth College. Ano brings over a decade of evidenced-based health research and writing, and a Masters of Public Health from Dartmouth Medical School to the Justmeans Editorial section. Special interests include health policy, conflict ...
Could Social Media Advance Cancer Care?
Even though there are some 8,000 clinical trials currently accepting cancer patients as participants, and three-quarters of cancer patients expect their physician to inform them of such trials, only 2% of newly diagnosed cancer patients participate.
Why? New research in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute tries to clarify this by analyzing data from 1533 oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgeons who provide care for lung and colorectal cancer patients. The data was collected by the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance Consortium.
56.7% of physicians said that they'd referred or enrolled at least one patient in a clinical trial in the past 12 months.
Medical oncologists were most likely, followed by radiation oncologist then surgeons.
Of those who did refer patients, the average number was 17 for medical oncologists, 12 for surgeons, and 9.5 for radiation oncologists.
What Factors Increase Referrals?
Being affiliated with an academic medical center and having an academic appointment was associated with greater likelihood of enrolling patients in trials.
And getting paid for referring or enrolling patients was also a contributing factor to increased likelihood of enrolling patients in trials.
Social Media Solutions?
If we operate on the assumption that increasing patient enrollment is a good thing because a. Its what 3 out of 4 patients might want, and b. It increases our knowledge of how to cure cancer, then how should we increase enrollment?
Pay more doctors more money? That one smacks of conflict of interest.
How about social media solutions? Are there apps out there that track clinical trials, so that cancer patients or their loved ones could inquire with their doctor about possible enrollment?
Are there social media portals, such as those created by Wellness Layers for the diet and nutrition website of Nutrisystem, where patients could discuss pros and cons of trial involvement?
Could clinical trial involvement be "normalized" by efforts such as having patients Tweet about their experience, or contribute to Facebook sites (either anonymously or identified) to make trial enrollment seem like part of the normal "cancer treatment experience"?
Or should the science be left alone to smolder along at its own pace, and let the doc's continue to make the call on who participates in cancer trials?