A pilot videoconference group stress management program in cancer survivors: lessons learned

Cancer is a challenging experience and there is evidence that psychosocial interventions are effective at improving adjustment following treatment. At our cancer center, 14 cancer survivors (breast, prostate and blood cancers) completed a four-session cognitive-behavioral stress program. The first session was delivered at the survivor's local cancer center, where they were provided with a loaner tablet. The three subsequent sessions were delivered through group-based videoconference on the tablet. Session content was supplemented with a tailored ebook, designed specifically for this program. Participants provided feedback about the program as well as a standardized measure of perceived stress.

Despite evidence that psychosocial programs are effective, there are significant barriers to dissemination, particularly for those residing in rural areas who do not live near academic medical centers where such programming is more readily available. Our experiences delivering a group-based videoconference program in cancer survivors are described, including positives and challenges associated with its design and implementation.

Study participants enrolled from across four different US states, and the majority reported at least a 30-minute commute to their cancer center. This travel burden played a meaningful role in their desire to participate in our videoconference-based program. Although participants reported that session content was well suited to addressing stress management concerns, and session facilitators were able to effectively teach program techniques (eg progressive muscle relaxation, cognitive-reframing) and that the program was helpful overall, only modest improvements in perceived stress were seen. Participants noted challenges of the delivery including feeling disconnected from others, difficulty focusing, technical problems, and a desire for a longer program. Thus, although the novel delivery of a group-based, psychosocial program using tablet videoconference is feasible in a survivorship program, and desired by cancer survivors, key improvements must be made in future efforts. Our enthusiasm about the potential of telehealth must be tempered with the reality that such delivery can present challenges that interfere with the intervention implementation and efficacy. Facilitators must proactively address both the technological and interpersonal challenges associated with the use of group-based videoconference in order to improve its ability to positively impact cancer survivors. Many of these issues can be resolved prior to program launch, and require foresight and planning on the part of the program team.

Rural and remote health. 2016 Jun 15 [Epub]

Eric S Zhou, Ann H Partridge, Jaime E Blackmon, Evan Morgan, Christopher J Recklitis

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. ., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. ., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. ., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. ., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. .