Deep Support: Using eHealth Technologies to Foster Healing RelationshipsBradford Hesse, Ph.D.
Chief, Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch
National Cancer Institute
- The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina makes clear the need for secure electronic record-keeping systems. Because of the disruptions caused by the storm, 318 NCI clinical trials were affected, and 7,717 patients participating in the trials were displaced. NCI's Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program established a help line to reach patients seeking to continue their treatments; unfortunately, many of the records detailing medication, dosage, etc., were damaged or destroyed. This event underscores the need for digital records to prevent loss of health records during disasters and preserve continuity of care; for example, patients could be given personal eHealth records listing details of their treatment on a disk or memory stick.
- The IOM report, From Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor: Lost in Transition, outlines infrastructure challenges and obstacles that cancer patients face. Ideally, patients should be partners in their care with unrestricted access to their health care and treatment information. Currently, cancer patients are faced with a health information "tsunami"-they have access to overwhelming amounts of information from Web sites, newspapers, and television. Much of this communication is fragmented, however, and often the right information does not reach the right patient at the right time. "Textbook" information needs to be customized and made relevant to each individual's experience.
- Technology should be exploited to provide honest assistance to help patients meet the challenges they face and also should be used to create solid, lasting support systems. Consequences of a broken support system include missed opportunities for prevention messages and continuity of care. Weaknesses in the U.S. health care system may contribute to the unacceptably high rate of death in the United States from cervical cancer, an easily detected and, when detected early, entirely survivable cancer.
- Technology should be used to ensure that people have access to preventive care, help with surveillance, create support for interventions, and coordinate care throughout an individual's lifetime. A "Life-Sensitive Medical Record" could be created, in which a patient's data are collected continuously over his or her lifetime.
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