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Working Towards a Model of Self-Navigation for Cancer Patients

May 16, 2013

In my last post, I shared with you the research work I have been doing with respect to lay navigation. This week, I would like to tell you about another model for navigation: self navigation using technology or virtual navigation. This model is one of four models that have been identified by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer as a means for improving person-centred care. In addition to lay/peer navigation and virtual navigation, there is also a professional navigation model and a systems navigation model. I will speak to the latter two in my next post, but for today, I would like to share our research work in virtual navigation.  

Virtual navigation involves the use of patient portals to provide sufficient and relevant information that patients need in a timely manner. Portals are tailored, personalized repositories of a patient’s information as well as a source of content geared towards the patient’s particular situation. Let me walk you through our vision of our portal for cancer patients:
Sue is diagnosed with stomach cancer by her surgeon and referred to the BC Cancer Agency for additional treatment. When she is contacted by the staff at the Vancouver Island Centre with her first appointment, she is provided with a login and temporary password to set up her portal account. Sue is eager to log in to find whatever information she can about the journey ahead. Upon opening her personalized home page, she finds an appointment calendar with the date and time of her meeting with the oncologist. She also finds a video telling her what to expect on her first appointment and is linked to a health assessment form that she can complete online. In another area, she finds information on how to manage symptoms she may be experiencing.  Relieved by all of this information, Sue feels better prepared to manage her first visit with the oncologist. She also finds a link allowing her to invite her daughter who lives in Ontario to be a part of her portal and therefore, to be part of her cancer journey. Although she knows it will be a tough road ahead, Sue already feels more supported with the tools that are allowing her to navigate her cancer journey.

While this is a fictional account, it is what we have envisioned and are working towards as we engage developers to design, test and understand the benefits of virtual navigation in meeting the needs of cancer patients and their families.  

In my post next week, I will complete the picture of our navigation research and how it is paving a unique path to better meeting the needs of those affected by cancer.