Laura Melton, PhD, ABPP, Medical Director for Supportive Oncology, University of Colorado Cancer Center at University of Colorado Hospital
The University of Colorado Cancer Center developed a telemedicine psychotherapy support group designed specifically for young adult patients with cancer. Those who would not have been able to attend regularly due to long geographic distances, severe weather, and health issues—such as immunosuppression and hospitalization—were able to join their peers virtually. All participants completed the six-week pilot program and cited high rates of patient satisfaction, with increased access to mental health services, companionship, and reduced travel time as top benefits.
Although support groups can be a useful coping mechanism for people with cancer, the effectiveness of such groups tends to be limited by distance and high attrition rates. Laura Melton, PhD, ABPP, the medical director of supportive oncology at the University of Colorado Cancer Center, says her institution struggles with reaching patients who often live far from where they receive treatment. “In Colorado, we have a population that is dispersed across many rural areas,” says Dr. Melton. “We have a large catchment area in our cancer center, so in order to meet patient needs, we have to reach them where they are.”
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Christian G. Downs, JD, MHA, ACCC Executive Director, Ali McBride, PharmD, MS, BCOP, ACCC President 2019-2020, Laura Melton, PhD, ABPP, Medical Director for Supportive Oncology, University of Colorado Cancer Center at University of Colorado Hospital, Randall A. Oyer, MD, ACCC President Elect 2019-2020
Having shown to reduce distress in patients with cancer, support groups are the backbone of supportive oncology care.1,2 However, though support groups can be a useful coping mechanism for patients, the effectiveness of such groups tends to be limited by distance and high attrition rates. Not surprising, when arriving at the University of Colorado Cancer Center in 2014, I noticed that attendance at support groups was low, a trend reflected in current literature.3 In fact, many support groups at the cancer center were being canceled due to low turnout. In response, I partnered with my colleague, Benjamin Brewer, PsyD, to address the issue.
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