AIM: Little is known about how patient groups provide information for patients. We invited 838 patient groups from Europe and North America to participate in an online survey.
METHODS: The survey covered: (i) availability, accessibility and quality of information provided; (ii) methods by which patient groups communicate; (iii) ways in which patient groups acquire information and confirm its veracity/accuracy; (iv) how people access information online.
RESULTS: European patient groups were significantly less effective in providing medical-related information than their North American counterparts in: clinical trials, potential causes of cancer, medical research, diagnosis/screening, symptoms, treatments (all p < 0.0001); Recommendations of best practice/care (p < 0.03), healthcare services(p = 0.029) and complimentary medicine (p = 0.01). Clinical trials (p = 0.0006), medical research (p = 0.006) and diagnosis/screening (p = 0.0024) were also areas where North American patients were more likely to require medical-related information. Similar patterns emerged for non-medical information with nutrition (<0.0001), watchful waiting (p = 0.0003), self-management of care (p = 0.0003), prevention (p = 0.002) and emotional issues (p = 0.016) being less effectively communicated by European patient groups. Nutrition was also an area where North American patients were more likely to require non-medical-related information. The main barriers in accessing online information which showed differences between European and North American patients were: perceived lack of need, mainly due to faith in their doctors (p = 0.0001); limited access to the internet (p = 0.0005), limited computer skills (p = 0.02); and lower income (p = 0.027).
CONCLUSION: These results emphasise the more mature nature of cancer patient engagement/information provision in North America, providing valuable insights and guidance to inform development of more robust and effective cancer patient information communication platforms in Europe.