Benefits of participation in professionally-facilitated online support groups: quantitative and qualitative outcomes for patients, survivors and family caregivers (#89)
We evaluated a pan-Canadian, collaborative initiative: CancerChatCanada. CancerChatCanada is an internet-based service designed to meet professional standards of practice, patient safety and overcome barriers to accessing support regardless of participant type. We report on quantitative and qualitative outcomes gleaned over 4 years of evaluating this initiative, including results from a randomized trial nested within the larger project.
We conducted semi-structured interviews and pre-post psychometric assessments of distress and lifestyle interference in several subsamples of cancer patients, survivors and family caregivers, including a randomized sample of young breast cancer survivors. 102 participants were interviewed; 52 participants completed pre-post surveys of distress and illness intrusiveness; and 51 survivors completed pre-post- 3 month follow up surveys. We report here on 1) participant-identified outcomes and 2) psychometric results of pre-post assessment.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
Over a 45-month period between January 2008 and October 2011, 51 online support groups were conducted with an average of 7 enrollees per group. Quantitative analyses demonstrated statistically significant reductions in emotional distress for patients and caregivers, and significant reductions in lifestyle interference for young breast cancer survivors at 3 months follow-up. Five qualitative themes identified specific benefits of internet-delivered, professionally-facilitated support groups: reaching out from home; resonance and kinship; emotional release; talking with text; and feeling safe.
Research on the efficacy of internet-delivered interventions is growing, and these data support the emerging trend that professionally-led internet- interventions are efficacious. Professional OSG’s for cancer patients give rise to similar outcomes as professional face-to-face support groups. Benign disinhibition and emotional safety are unique benefits of communicating through text, and may be mechanisms that facilitate outcome.