Health Informatics in Psychosocial Oncology
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This report provides a brief account of the author’s internship and details a proposed process for strengthening the provision of psychosocial care, information, and support for cancer patients and their families. The internship was conducted under the supervision of Dr. Rob Rutledge, a Radiation Oncologist at the Nova Scotia Cancer Centre and Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University. Work was carried out on four projects: literature searches for evidence-based information, a consumer health project, Skills for Healing retreats, and a proposal entitled “Creating a Community for Knowledge Exchange and Capacity Building in Psychosocial Cancer Care: Facilitating Collaboration Between NGOs, Professionals, and Researchers”. The internship provided the opportunity to apply information and skills learned throughout the Health Informatics program. Health informatics principles, concepts, and values were integral to all aspects of the work of the internship. A significant component of the work for this internship involved the development of a proposal intended to benefit cancer patients and their families by enhancing psychosocial care. Unfortunately, the psychosocial needs of patients and their families are not being met in a consistent or comprehensive manner. The reality is that there is a lack of integration, communication, and collaboration between key stakeholders in psychosocial cancer care and no mechanism to facilitate enhancement in these areas. The creation of a community for knowledge exchange and capacity building to foster a network with consistent processes for knowledge exchange, and increased opportunities for knowledge sharing and supportive collaboration, is recommended. As stakeholders learn from the perspectives and expertise that each brings to the community, the capacity to create higher quality programs and services in psychosocial cancer care, reducing gaps, will ultimately benefit patients and their families. There are four key elements in the proposed process: 1), a survey of NGOs to determine their needs and current practices; 2), a conference to bring together representatives from NGOs as well as the professional and research communities; 3), the development of a (n) action plan(s); and 4), the development of a plan for sustainability. Initial information gathering suggests that that there may be a role for technology in this proposed community. Many organizations are utilizing clearinghouses and on-line communities to house and share health-related information and resources. These sites can serve as potential models for consideration. However, the existence and format of a community for knowledge exchange and capacity building in psychosocial cancer care is a matter to be decided by those attending the proposed conference and their respective groups. More information is required before any solutions and plans can be developed.