The Utility of Publicly Reported Cancer Treatment Wait Time Information for Patients and Health Care Providers
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AIMS: To determine the utility of web-based radiation wait time information for patients and health care providers in decision-making. To revise the information using a simulated laboratory environment and to re-evaluate the new web-based information. MATERIALS AND METHODS: An online 'pop-up' survey on the Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) website measured user satisfaction. Qualitative data were gathered through patient focus groups and physician interviews. On the basis of the analysis, the website was revised and usability testing conducted. The information was re-evaluated by end-users through survey methodology. RESULTS: The majority accessing the wait time website were patients and family members. The modal age of use of the website was 31-50 years. Patients found the information more helpful after redesign than health professionals, but both found the language less easy to understand, highlighting the need to continuously evaluate the effectiveness of the website. Patients did not identify themselves as consumers of wait time information. Their expectation was that physicians would determine the urgency for treatment and would ensure timely access to care. Physicians reported that they did not use the CCO website on wait times and would not use the data for decision-making. Referrals were based on urgency of care and usual referral patterns. Referral patterns did not shift to centres with shorter wait times. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study did not confirm the usefulness of the web-based wait time information for patients and physicians as a resource on how to obtain timely access to radiation treatment. Patients relied on their physician to manage their access to treatment according to the urgency of their clinical condition. Physicians preferred their established referral process rather than referring their patients to centres with shorter wait times. As patients become more computer savvy, it will be interesting to see if they increasingly become consumers of web-based wait time information.
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