Over the past decade, cancer survivors have increasingly turned to the Internet for information on their disease and its treatment. Similarly, oncology professionals, including those involved in oncology rehabilitation, increasingly rely on the Internet to communicate with and provide information to their patients.1,2 However, putting information on the Web does not speak either to the ease with which that information can be found or to the accuracy/completeness of that information. Recently, Silver et al3 reported both on the ease of accessing information on oncology rehabilitation on the Web sites of NCI-Designated Cancer Centers (N = 62) and on the existence and completeness of a description of these cancer rehabilitation services that could be accessed on the Web sites. These particular facilities were selected because they are recognized as leaders in the development and delivery of survivorship care plans—documents, which by definition, are meant to provide patient information and education across their spectrum of cancer care. Web sites, reviewed by 2 investigators using tools and rating scales developed by the investigators, were used to evaluate ease of access to oncology rehabilitation Web pages at these facilities and the accuracy and completeness of the information contained on those Web pages.
Of the 62 NCI-Designated Cancer Centers Web sites reviewed, only 10% (N = 6) had an easily identifiable, patient-focused link that led to a description of the center's cancer rehabilitation services. That number increased to a total of 19 (31%) if specific search terms developed by the investigators were used. These investigators were knowledgeable in the field of oncology rehabilitation, raising concerns that the search terms used may not be obvious to less sophisticated users, suggesting that 30%, while low, may be overly optimistic. In addition, these investigators found that the Web sites of 18 centers (29%) presented a description of cancer rehabilitation services that could be rated as “accurate.” The Web sites of only 5 centers met the major criteria for quality, mentioning the 4 core rehabilitation services—physiatry consultations and physical, occupational, and speech therapy. These results led to the investigators to conclude that “the majority of NCI-Designated Cancer Center Web sites do not provide patients and consumers with educational information about cancer rehabilitation care.”
While the study has several limitations, including the absence of validity for the tools used and the exclusion of diagnosis-specific rehabilitation descriptions, these numbers and conclusions are sobering. Disease and treatment effects can make computer use by itself difficult, and these findings suggest that there is a high likelihood that the challenges continue once a survivor has logged on. At the minimum, these findings strongly support a review of the Web page of every facility that offers oncology rehabilitation services for ease of access and completeness/accuracy of information found on those Web pages. While undertaking such a review, why not review available individual patient education pieces for content, accuracy, and readability. Relative to this last review criteria, it is generally recognized that patient-directed health resources should be written at a sixth-grade level.4 Such an evaluation would most likely require the use of individuals trained in this type of evaluation. Do I see a QI/QA project in your future?
I would like to dramatically change gears now. The Board of Directors meeting at the Combined Sections Meeting in San Antonio saw the departure of several members of the board. This group includes Barbara Nicholson, PT, MSPT, Treasurer 2013-2017; Maggie Rinehart-Ayres, PT, PhD, Member-at-Large, 2013-2017; Joy C. Cohn, PT, Nominating Committee, 2014-2017; Lisa VanHoose, PT, PhD, Education Chair; Scot Sawyer, PT, DPT, Regional Course Chair, 2015-2017; and Susan Miale, PT, DPT, Chair, Pediatric Oncology SIG, 2014-2017. On behalf of the Section, I would like to thank each of these members for their commitment and devotion to the Oncology Section. Their service to the Section has contributed significantly to the significant strides made by the Section over the past few years. Although no longer on the board, many of these members will continue to serve the Section in an “ad hoc” fashion, allowing the Section to continue to benefit from their many talents and extensive experience. Many, many thanks to each of you.
While some are leaving the board, others are joining. It with great pleasure that I welcome Nancy Paddison, Treasurer, Bryan Spinelli, Member-at-Large, and Lorna Griffin, member-Nominating & Awards.
I hope everyone is having a great Spring!!!!
G. Stephen Morris, PT, PhD, FACSM
1. Hesse BW, Greenberg AJ, Rutten LJ. The role of Internet resources in clinical oncology: promises and challenges. Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2016;13:767–776.
2. Richards R, McNoe B, Losua E, et al. Cancer information seeking among adult New Zealanders: a national cross-sectional study [published online ahead of print November 16, 2016]. J Cancer Educ. doi:10.1007/s13187-016-1136-9.
3. Silver JK, Vishwa SR, Fu JB, et al. Most National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center Web sites do not provide survivors with information about cancer rehabilitation services [published online ahead of print January 7, 2017]. J Cancer Educ. doi:10.1007/s13187-016-1157-4.
4. Weiss KD, Vargas CR, Ho OA, Chuang DJ, Weiss J, Lee BT. Readability analysis of online resources related to lung cancer. J Surg Res. 2016;206:90–97.