The potential of Information and communication technology (ICT) as a method to improve care is widely acknowledged. However, before ICT can be used in a specific patient population, the needs of that population must first be made explicit. In this paper we aim to explore the feasibility and functionality of an electronic information system to support head and neck (H&N) cancer care. We describe communication and information bottlenecks in supportive care for H&N cancer patients. These bottlenecks were used to determine the functionality of an electronic health information support system. We discern three perspectives of problems in H&N cancer care: lacking communication among professionals, lacking information about the disease and its treatment, and lacking supportive measures to reduce uncertainty and fear in patients. To support care, an information support system can facilitate (1) communication among all professionals involved and between professionals and patients, (2) professionals' and patients' access to information, (3) contact with fellow sufferers, and (4) early detection of patient problems by means of monitoring. Based on these analyses we subsequently built such a system and established a setting for evaluation. Information and communication technology can be tailored to address the communication and information bottlenecks in supportive H&N cancer care. As we aim to investigate whether care for H&N cancer patients may benefit from ICT, we are currently performing a clinical evaluation study.

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Supportive Care in Cancer
Department of Otorhinolaryngology

van den Brink, J.L, Moorman, P.W, de Boer, M.F, van Bemmel, J.H, Pruyn, J.F.A, & Verwoerd, C.D.A. (2003). An information system to support the care for head and neck cancer patients. Supportive Care in Cancer, 11(7), 452–459. doi:10.1007/s00520-002-0425-5