Doctor, what are my options? A prospective cohort study of an individualized care plan for patients with gastrointestinal cancer
For cancer patients, information about their disease and its treatment is often delivered within a short time period, potentially leading to patient misunderstanding, which can impede optimal patient care. In this 3-part clinical study, we investigated the utility of an individualized care plan for patients with gastrointestinal (gi) cancer starting a new treatment.
In part 1, a comprehensive literature search identified items for potential inclusion in the care plan. Those items were formatted into a questionnaire. The questionnaire was then administered to patients as a structured interview. In part 2, health care professionals involved in the care of patients with gi cancer evaluated the resulting care plan for content and relevancy. In part 3, a 20-week prospective cohort study (10 weeks using standard of care, 10 weeks using individualized care plans) was conducted. Outcomes were assessed at baseline and at 2–4 weeks after administration of the care plan.
In part 1, a 73-item questionnaire was developed and completed by 20 patients in semi-structured interviews. In part 2, long and short versions of the care plan were created. Most health care professionals preferred the long version. Based on their comments, a final version of the care plan was created. The part 3 study enrolled 104 patients. Overall satisfaction scores were significantly higher in the intervention group at baseline (p = 0.010) and follow-up (p = 0.005). Compared with control patients, the intervention cohort also reported significantly higher overall quality of life (p = 0.044) and fewer symptoms of anxiety (p = 0.048) at follow-up.
Provision of an individualized care plan resulted in improvements in outcome measures at both baseline and follow-up. Future studies are needed to confirm these findings.