Case Western Reserve University nurse scientists will use a $2.37 million federal grant to explore how videoconferencing can help family members living apart from loved ones with cancer become better involved in their treatment, according to a news release.
“Many distance caregivers become distressed over not receiving enough medical information or knowing when is best for them to come home for an in-person visit,” lead investigator Sara Douglas, PhD, RN, assistant dean for research and the Arline H. and Curtis F. Garvin Professor in Nursing Excellence at Case Western’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, said in the release. “Videoconferences that connect doctors, nurses, patients and distant caregivers have the potential to address many of these problems.”
Funded by a grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research, a part of the National Institutes of Health, the study will assign 300 caregivers of relatives with cancer one of three approaches:
• Connecting distance caregivers, patients and their oncologists using videoconferencing during routine office appointments. An advanced practice nurse trained to work with distance caregivers also will provide four coaching sessions, including ways to enhance communication with healthcare providers, strategies for providing assistance to a loved one from afar and methods for addressing their own emotional, physical and spiritual needs.
• Connecting distance caregivers, patients and their oncologists using videoconferencing during routine oncology office appointments — but no coaching sessions.
• Access to a study-devised website providing information about the role of the caregiver, unique aspects of distance caregiving and information on ways to seek caregiving support.
To gauge the effectiveness of each approach, study participants will be interviewed at various points during the four-month study to assess their emotional and physical health.
“Distance caregivers can experience levels of distress higher than caregivers who live close to the patient with cancer,” Douglas said in the release. “The whole goal of our study is to determine the most effective way to provide information and support to them.”
The study builds on a pilot experiment testing videoconferencing technologies that allowed distant caregivers to participate remotely in real-time discussions between patients, doctors, social workers, nurses and local caregivers.
“On a videoconference, everyone is hearing the same information, has a chance to ask questions or have it explained if they don’t understand,” Douglas said in the release.
Once the doctor’s visit is over, these families can use the videoconference technology to discuss among themselves what was heard and make decisions, if needed.
By 2060, the number of people in the U.S. who are older than 65 will more than double to about 98 million, according to a projection by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“As our country ages, we’re planning for the future of taking care of sick relatives who live apart from some family members,” Douglas said in the release. She noted most medical facilities already have secure video technology.
Douglas will conduct the study with co-investigators Polly Mazanec, PhD, RN, AOCN, an adjunct assistant professor in the nursing school; Christopher Burant, PhD, an assistant professor from the nursing school; and Stephen Ganocy, PhD, assistant professor from Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.
They will work with researchers at the Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, including oncologist Smitha Krishnamurthi, MD, and Patrick Mergler, MBA, PMP, director of information technology.
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