Implementing a Low-Literacy, Multimedia Information Technology System to Enhance Patient-Centered Cancer Care (Illinois)


Using technology to promote better patient understanding of their cancer and treatment may improve communication, adherence to treatment, and outcomes. It may also improve patient satisfaction, knowledge, self-efficacy, treatment, and health-related quality of life (HRQL). In particular, technology in the form of a multimedia information and assessment system targeted to individuals with low literacy is hoped to enhance patient-centered care and improve outcomes when used in daily clinic al practice.    

This project evaluated such a system, called the CancerHelp® Talking Touchscreen (TT), targeted to patients being treated for breast and colorectal cancer. The system collected patient self-reported data and provided patient education on diagnoses, treatment, support, side effects, prevention, and screening.

The specific aims of this project were to:          

  • Test whether a low-literacy-friendly multimedia information and assessment information technology system used in daily clinical practice improves patient outcomes during treatment in 200 recently diagnosed breast and colorectal cancer patients based on the primary endpoints: satisfaction with health care communication, knowledge of cancer and treatment, self-efficacy, adherence to recommended treatment, and HRQL.
  • Evaluate the relationships between patient characteristics, resources, needs, health behaviors, and health outcomes using the Behavioral Model for Vulnerable Populations.
  • Test whether use of the multimedia information technology system improves adherence to recommended post-treatment surveillance care and HRQL during the early post-treatment surveillance period (3 months after treatment).        

Patients with Stage I-to-III breast or colorectal cancer receiving chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy were randomized to one of two arms: the CancerHelp-TT intervention or control, stratified by the clinic they attended. A total of 129 patients participated; 65 in the intervention arm and 64 in the control arm. 

The study found no statistically significant difference between the groups in satisfaction with communication, HRQL, health beliefs, or cancer knowledge. It was noted that there was a consistent trend in improvements in the tracked endpoints in the intervention group versus the control group. Health literacy was moderately associated with better HRQL, higher cancer knowledge, and more adaptive health beliefs. Overall, participants rated the CancerHelp-TT software favorably.

Grant Number: 
R18 HS017300
Funding Mechanism: 
Ambulatory Safety and Quality: Enabling Patient-Centered Care through Health IT (R18)
AHRQ Funded Amount: 
Principal Investigator: 
Hahn, Elizabeth
Northwestern University
Project Dates: 
September 30, 2007 to September 29, 2012
Project Status: 

Project Categories

Type of Health Information Technology: 
Media Based Technologies
Care Setting: 
Specialty Practice
Aspect of Care: 
Acute Care
Chronic Disease Management
Patient Education
Specialty Care
Target Population: 
Cancer: Breast
Cancer: Colorectal Cancer Screening
Low Literacy
Low-SES/Low Income
Medically Underserved
Racial/Ethnic Minorities
Safety Net
Last Modified: August 2015

News and Publications

Hahn E. Implementing a Low-Literacy, Multimedia Information Technology System to Enhance Patient-Centered Cancer Care - Final Report. (Prepared by Northwestern University under Grant No. R18 HS017300). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2012. (PDF, 510.02 KB)
The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the author(s), who are responsible for its content, and do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. No statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Project Activities