Results Summary

What was the research about?

Some patients may need an ostomy after they have surgery for cancer. An ostomy is a hole created in the abdomen to help clear stool or urine from the body. An ostomy bag attached to the body collects the waste. Educational programs about living with an ostomy can help patients manage their ostomy.

In this study, the research team looked at the use of telehealth, or remote care using phone or video, to make it easier for patients to attend an education program. The team compared two approaches on how well they improved patients’ confidence and ability to care for their ostomy:

  • Usual care alone. Patients received a booklet about ostomy skin care and contact information for support groups. The research team suggested that patients see an ostomy nurse and have a follow-up visit with their surgeon.
  • A telehealth program plus usual care. Along with usual care, patients received a workbook and set personal goals. Over five weeks, patients attended three telehealth sessions taught by an ostomy nurse and a peer coach with an ostomy. Patients used a tablet or computer to attend sessions. Caregivers took part in one session. Patients and caregivers completed a final session together.

What were the results?

At six months, patients receiving support through the two approaches didn’t differ in their:

  • Confidence to manage and improve their health
  • Feelings about their ability to do self-care activities
  • Ostomy self-care knowledge
  • Quality of life related to their ostomy
  • Use of health care related their ostomy

Who was in the study?

The study included 167 adults receiving care at one of three health systems in California, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Among patients, 82 percent were White; 5 percent were African American; 5 percent were Asian; 4 percent were American Indian, Alaska Native, or more than one race; and 3 percent reported other race; 7 percent were Hispanic. Also, 46 percent were women.

What did the research team do?

The research team assigned patients and caregivers by chance to receive usual care with or without the telehealth program. Patients completed surveys and interviews at the start and end of the program, and again six months after the program ended. Surveys asked about knowledge, confidence, and ostomy self-care. Interviews asked about use of health care in the prior week.

People with ostomies, ostomy nurses, and telehealth specialists gave input on the program.

What were the limits of the study?

Patients receiving support through the two approaches differed in their education, income, and type of cancer. The research team took these differences into account, but it’s possible patients differed in other ways that may have affected the results. At six months, more people dropped out of the study than the team expected, mostly because of illness or death. As a result, it may have been hard to detect differences between the groups.

Future research could look at other ways to improve outcomes among patients with ostomies.

How can people use the results?

Health systems can use the results when considering ways to improve care for patients with ostomies.

Final Research Report

View this project's final research report.

Peer-Review Summary

Peer review of PCORI-funded research helps make sure the report presents complete, balanced, and useful information about the research. It also assesses how the project addressed PCORI’s Methodology Standards. During peer review, experts read a draft report of the research and provide comments about the report. These experts may include a scientist focused on the research topic, a specialist in research methods, a patient or caregiver, and a healthcare professional. These reviewers cannot have conflicts of interest with the study.

The peer reviewers point out where the draft report may need revision. For example, they may suggest ways to improve descriptions of the conduct of the study or to clarify the connection between results and conclusions. Sometimes, awardees revise their draft reports twice or more to address all of the reviewers’ comments. 

Peer reviewers commented and the researchers made changes or provided responses. Those comments and responses included the following:

  • The reviewers noted that the usual care comparison condition in the study seemed to be quite comprehensive and asked the researchers to describe how it compared to standard practice. The researchers agreed that the enhanced usual care condition may have provided more attention to participants than they would normally receive, and that even the contacts with participants to collect survey data could encourage them to seek additional community resources. The researchers added language to their study limitations about how the enhanced usual care condition might have reduced the potential comparative effectiveness of their experimental intervention.
  • The reviewers stated that patients appeared to not be very involved in this study. The researchers explained that patients were very involved in the pilot study on which the full trial was based, were important in the curriculum development for the new intervention, and helped determine how it should be delivered to study participants.
  • The reviewers asked the researchers to add more discussion about why the study failed to find a significant difference in patient activation between the experimental condition and the enhanced usual care condition. The researchers disagreed about whether the study could be viewed as having failed to find an effect, instead describing their results as not being as robust as they had hypothesized. The researchers suggested some reasons for this lack of significant results, such as problems with the matching strategy, lack of sufficient power to find an effect, and inappropriate timing of survey collection. The researchers added discussion of these possibilities to the report.
  • The reviewers wondered whether the burden of the intervention, which included multiple meetings and surveys, affected the outcomes and led to the lower-than-anticipated comparative benefit. The researchers acknowledged that some potential participants may have declined participation because of the anticipated burden, but that most of the participants who started the intervention sessions completed them and did not complain about the burden of the study, and some lamented the end of the study sessions. 

Conflict of Interest Disclosures

Project Information

Robert S. Krouse, MD, MS
The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania^
Ostomy Telehealth for Cancer Survivors

Key Dates

April 2016
May 2022

Study Registration Information

^Robert S. Krouse, MD, MS was affiliated with Arizona Board of Regents, University of Arizona when this study was initially funded.


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Health Conditions Health Conditions These are the broad terms we use to categorize our funded research studies; specific diseases or conditions are included within the appropriate larger category. Note: not all of our funded projects focus on a single disease or condition; some touch on multiple diseases or conditions, research methods, or broader health system interventions. Such projects won’t be listed by a primary disease/condition and so won’t appear if you use this filter tool to find them. View Glossary
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
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Last updated: February 6, 2023