ASCO’s Patient Information Website, Cancer.Net, Undergoes Redesign


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Robert S. Miller, MD, FACP

ASCO is committed to providing people with cancer and their caregivers with top quality educational information and resources to help them manage their cancer care, treatment, and survivorship. This ongoing commitment is best reflected in its patient-facing educational website, Cancer.Net (www.cancer.net), which has just completed its latest redesign.

“The redesign continues to provide visitors with all of the same great information that has always been available on Cancer.Net, but it makes navigating the site easier and makes information more accessible to patients and the general audience,” said Robert S. Miller, MD, FACP, editor-in-chief of the website. “The redesign now features our content in a way that will make people want to keep coming back to the site, and cements Cancer.Net’s reputation as one of the definitive sources for cancer information.”

New Blog Platform

The website, which was originally launched in 2002, underwent its last redesign in 2009. Oncologists are no strangers to the amount of change and innovation that can take place in 5 years in the cancer research arena and the same is true when it comes to online innovation, including the explosion of social media.

One of the first components to the website redesign was the launch of the Cancer.Net Blog in December. According to Dr. Miller, the blog was designed as a way to communicate important and relevant information to patients and caregivers in a timely and responsive manner.

Guided by Anas Younes, MD, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the blog features a wide variety of content including updates on cancer research, interviews with health-care professionals, and focused posts and podcasts discussing topics that are important to patients and caregivers. Blog authors include ASCO members, survivors, patient advocates. In addition, there is a Comments section that will encourage community dialogue on each entry. Patients can subscribe to the Cancer.Net blog at www.cancer.net/blog

“ASCO and Cancer.Net have recognized that patients are heavily involved in social media, and in order to remain relevant in terms of patient education, we have to be in that space as well,” said Dr. Miller, who is a Clinical Associate in the Breast Cancer Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Oncology. He is also Oncology Medical Information Officer and Epic Physician Champion at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Other Social Media Channels

The blog is one part of Cancer.Net’s efforts to more easily engage with patients and others looking for cancer information online. During the last few years, ASCO as a whole has become very active on Twitter and Facebook. As part of this comprehensive effort, Cancer.Net’s social media channels are aimed specifically at the patient/survivor community and the public at large.

These channels offer a simple way for patients to stay up to date with new information and resources as they become available on Cancer.Net, or ask questions and provide feedback. Now instead of seeking out information through an often time-consuming search, patients can have information pushed out to them via social media. Patients can follow the website on Facebook (www.facebook.com/
CancerDotNet), Google+ (plus.google.com), YouTube (www.youtube.com/CancerDotNet), and at CancerDotNet on Twitter (www.twitter.com/CancerDotNet).

Highlighting Spanish Content

The redesign of Cancer.Net also incorporated improvements to the delivery of Spanish language content available on the website.

Spanish language patient information was first made available in 2005, with the amount of translated content growing each year. In 2013, Cancer.Net’s award-winning app also became available in Spanish. With the website redesign, there is a toggle feature to switch between English and Spanish on each webpage where Spanish content is available. In addition, Cancer.Net has a Spanish version of its homepage for the first time. All of the information presented in Spanish goes through professional translation so that patients can be assured that the information is reliable and accurate.

Intuitive, Visually Appealing Design

Finally, the most recent component of the redesign is updating the visual appearance of the website.

“We redesigned Cancer.Net to give it a uniformity of visual appearance with other ASCO websites,” Dr. Miller said.

The website’s home page has been fully updated and streamlined in line with the latest knowledge in the field of website usability and user preferences. The structure of the website has also gone through a comprehensive review, to make Cancer.Net’s vast amount of content easier to find with fewer links for site visitors.

Together, these design changes make the website easier to use and navigate, and will get people to the information they are seeking quicker. In addition, multimedia components—including Cancer.Net videos and podcasts—are more easily integrated into written articles thanks to the redesign.

Cancer.Net’s redesign will not affect its popular content, all of which is reviewed and approved by the site’s 150-member editorial board. For instance, patients will still have access to the Types of Cancer section that includes comprehensive information such as risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment on 124 different types of cancer and related
syndromes.

Patients and caregivers will also still be able to take advantage of the website’s Find a Cancer Doctor database, a very popular feature of the site. This database includes the names of ASCO members who have agreed to be identified publicly. With the redesign, website users will now have greater access to this important feature because the Find a Cancer Doctor option is highlighted prominently on the home page and is included in the footer area of each page within the site.

An ‘Information Prescription’

People who find themselves suddenly immersed in the world of cancer—whether it is as a patient or caregiver—frequently turn to the Internet, which is overflowing with information about the disease, including many questionable or outright fraudulent sites. Faced with such a wide array of information sources, it can often be difficult to sort out quality information.

For this reason, it is important that ASCO members encourage patients to take advantage of the valuable information available on Cancer.Net. The site brings the expertise and resources of ASCO to people living with cancer and those who care for and about them.

“Oncologists cannot provide patients with all the information they might need in the context of a single visit,” Dr. Miller said. “My vision is to see oncologists writing ‘information prescriptions’ as part of the same visit where they might give patients a prescription for a nausea drug.”

Patients will always have questions, Dr. Miller said. Oncologists should encourage them to turn to Cancer.Net as the only patient resource that is part of ASCO’s trusted online offerings. ■

© 2014. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.



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