Psychosocial care is defined as “the psychological and social services and interventions that enable patients, their families, and healthcare providers to optimize biomedical health care and to manage the psychological/behavioral and social aspects of illness and its consequences so as to promote better health.” Research has documented the positive effects of psychosocial care for cancer patients in terms of enhanced patient outcomes, medical cost-offsets, and even survival. Yet, despite this evidence, shortcomings and disparities exist with regard to the delivery and tailoring of psychosocial support services to those that need them. Furthermore, the research base in this regard is limited because patient perspectives on the value and relevance of these services have been absent.
To address these shortcomings, the project team’s goal is to develop a sustainable community of cancer patient advocates, oncology social workers, and researchers devoted to the delivery of high-quality psychosocial care for cancer patients. The investigators aim to establish a Patient-Centered Research Cooperative Group (PCRCG) for psychosocial oncology that will serve as an infrastructure for conducting psychosocial research, disseminating findings, and eliciting systems changes necessary for improving cancer care. This infrastructure is needed to define and conduct high-impact, clinically relevant research, and to serve as a venue for ongoing recruitment of new stakeholders and expertise into the field of psychosocial oncology research. The team also aims to enhance the knowledge and capacity of research group members to conduct psychosocial research. Finally, investigators will identify high-priority issues and topics of relevance to key stakeholders, and ultimately prepare for the initiation of research and investment in sustainability of the cooperative group.
The plan is to coalesce established researchers in the field of psychosocial oncology, along with 15 teams of oncology social workers and cancer patient advocates, into a skilled cadre of investigators with the capacity to identify high-priority research questions and conduct patient-centered outcomes and comparative effectiveness research. To achieve this goal, the team will host two research institutes to be held in conjunction with the Association of Oncology Social Work’s annual conferences in 2017 and 2018. In the interim, the project team will hold a series of monthly teleconferences intended to enhance PCRCG members’ research skills and competencies.
The primary outcome of this work will be the establishment of an operation for conducting patient-centered research, one in which academic investigators, oncology social workers, and patient advocates collaborate in all aspects of research, from the prioritization and generation of research questions to the development of appropriate research designs and data collection procedures, and eventual dissemination of results to achieve ultimate impact.
This project will be conducted in collaboration with the Association of Oncology Social Work, a professional association serving the education and training needs of over 1,300 oncology social workers nationwide. The American Cancer Society and the American College of Surgeon’s Commission on Cancer have expressed their enthusiasm for this project and their commitment to facilitate collaboration and dissemination of research that will eventually emerge from the PCRCG.