Embracing the Digital Age in Oncology Outpatients. A Qualitative Study


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Pippa Bullard1,Catherine Sharma1,Claire Diver2
1Nottingham University NHS Trust,2University of Nottingham

Abstract

Background

National guidelines suggest digital technology should be implemented within the NHS. People are living with cancer for longer increasing demand for outpatient services. Digital Patient Reported Outcome Measures (E-PROMs) allow patients to report on their health without attending hospital. A mixed methods service improvement project was conducted: a qualitative service evaluation   explored patient perceptions and opinions prior to implementation.

 

 

Method

Qualitative focus groups were conducted with oncology patients receiving radiotherapy and/or systemic cancer treatment. Participants were recruited from a pilot study of the E-PROMs tool and contacted via email or phone. The tumour sites were used to form 4 focus groups: breast, prostate, colorectal and melanoma, and renal. Focus groups were carried out in a university building, by a researcher who did not work in the oncology service. Interviews were tape recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was used to identify common themes and sub-themes.

Results

58 patients were invited to participate and 15 recruited across the four focus groups. Interviews lasted approximately 60 minutes. 4 key themes were identified: Questionnaire design and content; enhanced patient experience; digital technology and future service delivery. All participants supported the use of E-PROMs whilst acknowledging not all patients would want or be able to use them. Few amendments to the E-PROMs were suggested; these were unique to their cancer and/or treatment with the exception of questions on fatigue which were common to all. Participants expressed a desire for more care to be delivered remotely especially when living at a distance from the point of delivery.

Conclusion

Overall, participants described positive experiences when using E-PROMs and considered it a positive addition to their care. Findings will be used to inform refinement and implementation of the E-PROMs, after which further evaluation will be conducted.