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New Technology Could Help Head and Neck Cancer Survivors

June 04, 2018

The Hartford HealthCare (HHC) Cancer Institute and the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center are working together to test technology that could improve quality of life and outcomes for head and neck cancer survivors.

An abstract written by a wide range of clinicians, including MSK Assistant Attending Outcomes Research Scientist Talya Salz, PhD, and Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at Hartford Hospital Medical Director Andrew Salner, MD, was accepted by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which held its 2018 annual meeting and conference June 1-4 in Chicago. The next step could be a clinical trial.

“The face of the disease has really changed because of the prevalence of HPV (human papillomavirus), which is now the leading cause of head and neck cancer. We’re seeing a younger and healthier patient population,” Dr. Salner said. “With younger and healthier population of survivors comes the need to utilize new technology to help head and neck cancer survivors, who commonly experience multiple ongoing health issues.”

A web-based platform (HN-STAR) was developed using patient-reported outcome measures to tailor survivorship visits and individualize care plans. Researchers then evaluated how acceptable the web-based platform was for survivors and primary care providers, including those at HHC and MSK.

Prior to a clinic visit, survivors completed the web-based questionnaire. During the visit, providers viewed patient concerns onscreen alongside recommended management options, in order to guide discussion and decision-making. Each management plan populated a survivorship care plan that was given to the patient and the primary care provider.

Approximately 98% of survivors agreed that completing the web-based form was easy and improved discussions during their visits. Approximately 93% of survivors said it improved the quality of care. Most reported that completing the forms made them feel more in control of their care (86%). Almost all agreed that the care plan was easy to follow (98%), the care plan accurately summarized the clinic visit (98%), they would refer to the care plan later (98%) and they trust the care plan (100%).

Primary care providers reported a wide range of comfort managing head and neck toxicities.  Approximately 90% of those who reviewed the care plans agreed that they were trustworthy, were satisfactory, would help them communicate with the survivor and oncologist, and would improve the quality of care.

Head and neck cancer survivors are comfortable reporting concerns electronically and perceive a beneficial impact on their clinic visit,” Dr. Salner said. “Primary care providers need help caring for head and neck cancer survivors, and tailored care plans may improve their comfort. The next step would be a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of this web-based platform in improving clinical outcomes.”

To learn more about the Hartford HealthCare Institute’s membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, visit: https://hartfordhealthcare.org/services/cancer-care/memorial-sloan-kettering-alliance.