Focused Internet services provide better support to breast cancer patients

July 15, 2008

Madison, Wis. - July 15, 2008 - A new study in the Journal of Communication reveals that access to an integrated system of internet health resources helps patients more than simply providing a list of URLs to accredited sites.

Breast cancer affects one in eight women and is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Led by David H. Gustafson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the study set out to examine what type of access to internet resources would be expected to help newly diagnosed breast cancer patients during these stressful months.

To compare the benefits, 257 breast cancer patients were randomly assigned to three groups. The first group, the control group, received standard care and was given their choice of excellent book or audio-tape breast cancer resources. The second group was given a computer and provided with a list of high-quality websites about breast cancer and training on internet use. The third group received access to CHESS, an eHealth system with an integrated set of services related to breast cancer, and training on how to use those specific services.

The patients who received the list of websites did no better than patients in the control group. However, patients in the CHESS group fared better on quality of life, perceived social support, and in dealing with health information and healthcare. CHESS provided added benefits beyond those of simply the internet.

Access to internet services alone provided patients little or no benefit over standard care. On the other hand, access to CHESS helped patients more than standard care and was greatest nine months after they received access to the system, suggesting that CHESS had long term effects on their quality of life.

"Healthcare providers should direct people facing serious illness or injury to a single high-quality website that is comprehensive and regularly updated by objective unbiased experts," the authors conclude. "Patients need to be trained to use the websites they are referred to. The sites need to be more inclusive and contain not only information but support services and tools to help patients think through their situation."
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This study is published in the June 2008 issue of the Journal of Communication. Media wishing to receive a PDF of this article may contact journalnews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net.

David H. Gustafson is affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and can be reached for questions at gustafson@ie.engr.wisc.edu.

The Journal of Communication is the flagship journal of the International Communication Association and an essential publication for all communication specialists and policy makers. The Journal of Communication concentrates on communication research, practice, policy, and theory, bringing to its readers the latest, broadest, and most important findings in the field of communication studies. This journal also features an extensive book review section and the symposia of selected studies on current issues.

Wiley-Blackwell was formed in February 2007 as a result of the acquisition of Blackwell Publishing Ltd. by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., and its merger with Wiley's Scientific, Technical, and Medical business. Together, the companies have created a global publishing business with deep strength in every major academic and professional field. Wiley-Blackwell publishes approximately 1,400 scholarly peer-reviewed journals and an extensive collection of books with global appeal. For more information on Wiley-Blackwell, please visit www.blackwellpublishing.com or http://interscience.wiley.com.

Wiley

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