Do Survivorship Care Plans Improve PROs Among Cancer Patients?

An article published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology finds that survivorship care plans may not greatly improve patient satisfaction with their care.

With earlier diagnosis and improved treatment options, cancer survivorship is more common place today than a decade ago. However, long-term survivors have to grapple with physical and mental health issues associated with their cancer treatment. To understand the impact of survivorship care plans (SCPs) on patient satisfaction with information and the care received, researchers evaluated endometrial cancer patients and studied the impact of automatically generated SCPs on the above primary outcomes. Secondary outcomes were illness perceptions and healthcare use.

Newly diagnosed endometrial cancer patients filled out questionnaires immediately following diagnosis, after diagnosis, and 6 and 12 months following diagnosis. Of the nearly three-quarter patients who received an SCP in the SCP care arm, the reported increased information on available care and sites of care did not improve patient satisfaction with information or with care, compared with the control arm. These patients also reported more symptoms, were more concerned and emotionally affected by their illness. An important aspect of this SCP was the inclusion of the patient's primary care physician (PCP) in the plan, which is important when it comes to integrated care of cancer patients. However, the increased contact with their PCP during cancer treatment did not greatly influence patient satisfaction with care.

While evidence exists on SCPs being used, not much is known about the impact of SCPs on patient satisfaction. The current results have added to the vacuum that exists around this information. Importantly, they override the presumption that care plans improve outcomes and patient satisfaction. It is unclear though whether these effects are harmful or beneficial for patients. “One could argue that receiving an SCP raises patients’ awareness of cancer-related symptoms and empowers them to find the necessary support,” even if they don’t recognize this as a benefit, the investigators write.

The emotional stress that patients expressed about their illness calls for intervention on the psychological impact that a life-threatening disease like cancer can have on patients and their families. The data can also help physicians make informed decisions on larger-scale implementation of SCPs.