HEALTH AND RESEARCH

Weekly monitoring of cancer patients improves quality of life

Rates of hospitalization and survival are still under investigation, according to the authors.

In Summary

•After three months, participants in the PRO group demonstrated significantly improved secondary outcomes.

•Symptom management is critical for successfully treating patients with cancer, but symptom monitoring during treatments is rare.

Weekly electronic symptom monitoring significantly improved quality of life for adult patients undergoing cancer treatment compared to patients receiving standard care, according to findings published in JAMA.

According to David Cella, the Ralph Seal Paffenbarger Professor and chair of the Department of Medical Social Sciences, pinpointing symptoms sooner helps to facilitate more effective treatment. 

“Identifying symptoms early via patient reported outcomes and alerting clinicians to their presence facilitated interventions to prevent subsequent symptom worsening or complications,” he said.

Symptom management is critical for successfully treating patients with cancer however it has the potential to leave significant symptoms unrecognized between patient visits.

Studies have demonstrated that monitoring patients symptoms during treatment with electronic systems (e.g., internet tools, smartphone apps, or via telephone) could help clinicians better focus their treatment. This optimisation of treatment leads to improved patient outcomes. 

In the current trial, more than 1,100 patients diagnosed with metastatic cancer received care at 52 community oncology practices across the U.S. Some were randomly chosen to receive electronic symptom monitoring with patient-reported outcome (PRO) surveys while others received  standard care.

Participants answered questions about secondary outcomes including physical function, symptom control and health-related quality of life, during their treatment either online or by telephone for at least one year.

After three months, participants in the PRO group demonstrated significantly improved secondary outcomes compared to those that only received standard care.

Overall rates of hospitalization and long term survival are still under investigation, according to the authors.

“High rates of patient survey completion can be attained in routine clinical practice — even when patients are ill and have limited prior technology experience,” the authors wrote.

Cella added that he is currently leading a team of Feinberg investigators who are conducting a similar study across the entire Northwestern Medicine health system.

“The evidence is clear: Routine monitoring of symptoms during cancer treatment improves our ability to treat patients and they are better off for it,” Cella said.

“Now, we need to figure out how to make it work in a busy clinical environment where clinicians are stretched thin and information technology can limit our options. Our study here is focused on implementing what we know to improve our patients’ lives across the entire health system.”