Researchers at Paoli-Calmettes Institute, pictured here, are working with IBM to study how to use visuals in their communications to help cancer patients better understand information regarding cancer screening, prevention, and treatment risks. (Photo courtesy IPC, France)
Communicating cancer risk information is a growing area of oncology and the process is a challenging one for both healthcare professionals and patients. Patients may have difficulties understanding complex risk calculations and probabilities for cancer treatments and diagnosis. Clinicians may find it difficult to translate risk statistics to individual patients and use only verbal communications to explain complex information.
“There are many challenges to communicating medical risks for individualized cancer treatments. It requires specialist knowledge and understanding in order to inform patients about cancer risk, to change risk related behaviors, or to reassure people with excessive risk related anxieties”, says Professor François Eisinger, IPC. "This research study aims to significantly deepen our clinical knowledge and practice about risk communications, while helping patients to better understand their diagnosis and treatments."
The objective of the collaboration is to find novel ways for clinicians to effectively present medical risk information to help cancer patients make their own informed decisions on the benefits of screening, prevention, or on their treatment management options.
IBM researchers will create and review multi-dimensional risk information templates and provide these to clinicians who will use the templates as a visual aid to communicate with patients the implications of their cancer diagnosis and treatment options. The medical aspects of the project will be led by a team of researchers at Paoli-Calmettes Institute’s Regional Cancer Center in Marseille.
Initial focus of the research study will cover the communication of risk information to prostate cancer patients at both pre- and post-screening stages, as the number and complexity of risk factors (age, health status, screening results, side effects of treatments) makes it especially challenging for clinicians to effectively communicate with patients on the risks and rationale of the recommended treatments.
Scientists will review data from the patient-clinician interactions to extract insights into what visual communication features are most effective at accurately portraying the risks and the benefits to patients. The data will be anonymized to protect patient confidentiality and meet government standards.
The design of the visual communication templates aims to deliver the information gathered from medical and statistical content such as inherited, biological and environmental risk factors and lifestyle habits that may influence the development of cancer in patients.
“This research demonstrates how risk analytics and visual communications can aid medical staff to communicate effectively in order to support cancer patients to make more informed decisions about screening strategies or treatment programs,” say Dr. Léa Deleris, Manager of Risk Analytics group at IBM Research - Ireland.
With the study results, researchers are hoping to develop useful tools that will support in the communication of cancer patients’ risk profile, ultimately helping to foster compliance with cancer prevention and screening protocols. For health professionals the study aims to support the intercommunication of medical data to the general public more clearly and objectively, while developing new models of cancer care.
About Paoli-Calmettes Institute
The Institute is located in Marseille and is the regional center providing global care for cancer. It is a member of UNICANCER, the national federation of cancer centers. Offering treatments for adults, the Paoli-Calmettes Institute has built a strong nation-wide and world-wide reputation on the treatment of cancers. The Paoli-Calmettes Institute is one of the rare private facilities that has been licensed by the HAS for the last four years (the overall health authority) (V2010); this is its third certification. IPC's specificity relies on the wide range of activities embodied on its site: prevention, research, training, treatment and rehabilitation. Over 250 researchers work in close collaboration with the medical teams to offer the cutting edge scientific advancements and the highest level treatments against cancers.
About IBM Research
For more information, visit http://www.research.ibm.com.