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Oncology Outpatient and Provider Responses to a Computerized Symptom Assessment System

Janet S. Carpenter
Susan Rawl
Jennifer Porter
Karen Schmidt
Jennifer Tornatta
Foluso Ojewole
Paul Helft
David A. Potter
Christopher Sweeney
R. Brian Giesler
ONF 2008, 35(4), 661-669 DOI: 10.1188/08/ONF.661-669

Purpose/Objectives: To assess patient and provider responses to a computerized symptom assessment system.

Design: Descriptive, longitudinal study with retrospective, longitudinal medical records review.

Setting: University-based National Cancer Institute-designated outpatient cancer center.

Sample: 80 oncology outpatients receiving chemotherapy, 8 providers, and 30 medical records.

Methods: Patients completed the computerized assessment during three chemotherapy follow-up clinic appointments (times 1, 2, and 3). Patient usability was recorded via an observer checklist (ease of use) and the computer (completion time). Patient satisfaction and impact were assessed during telephone interviews two to three days after times 1 and 3 only. Provider usability and impact were assessed at the end of the study using a questionnaire and focus groups, whereas effect on provider documentation was assessed through chart audits.

Main Research Variables: Patient usability (ease of use, completion time), satisfaction, and impact; provider usability and impact.

Findings: Patients reported good usability, high satisfaction, and modest impact on discussions with their providers. Providers reported modest usability, modest impact on discussions with patients, and had varied reactions as to how the system affected practice. Documentation of symptoms was largely absent before and after implementation.

Conclusions: This system demonstrated good usability and satisfaction but had only a modest impact on symptom-related discussions and no impact on documentation.

Implications for Nursing: A computerized system can help address barriers to symptom assessment but may not improve documentation unless it can be integrated into existing medical records systems.

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