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E-Mail Communication Practices and Preferences Among Patients and Providers in a Large Comprehensive Cancer Center

Author: Natalie Cook, Manjula Maganti, Aditi Dobriyal, Michal Sheinis, Alice C. Wei, Jolie Ringash, Monika K. Krzyzanowska

Journal of Oncology Practice. 2016 Jun 28: JOP.2015.008722

Purpose: Little is known about how electronic mail (e-mail) is currently used in oncology practice to facilitate patient care. The objective of our study was to understand the current e-mail practices and preferences of patients and physicians in a large comprehensive cancer center.

Methods: Separate cross-sectional surveys were administered to patients and physicians (staff physicians and clinical fellows) at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with current e-mail use. Record review was performed to assess the impact of e-mail communication on care.

Results: The survey was completed by 833 patients. E-mail contact with a member of the health care team was reported by 41% of respondents. The team members contacted included administrative assistants (52%), nurses (45%), specialist physicians (36%), and family physicians (18%). Patient factors associated with a higher likelihood of e-mail contact with the health care team included younger age, higher education, higher income, enrollment in a clinical trial, and receipt of multiple treatments. Eighty percent of physicians (n = 63 of 79) reported previous contact with a patient via e-mail. Physician factors associated with a greater likelihood of e-mail contact with patients included older age, more senior clinical position, and higher patient volume. Nine hundred sixty-two patient records were reviewed, with e-mail correspondence documented in only 9% of cases.

Conclusion: E-mail is commonly used for patient care but is poorly documented. The use of e-mail in this setting can be developed with appropriate guidance; however, there may be concerns about widening the gap between certain groups of patients.

NEWS

Meet the Directors

At our Annual General Meeting on April 29th, 2016 we announced our new Board of Directors. Our 10 person Board of Directors consists of a medical student, residents, junior and senior oncology faculty. The directors will serve for the 2016-2020 term. Take a look at their bios and get to know our directors!

Dr. Christine Simmons (Chair)

Dr. Christine Simmons is a Medical Oncologist at the BCCA Vancouver. She completed her residency training in Toronto, and completed a fellowship in Locally Advanced Breast Cancer at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. She also completed a Master’s in Clinical Epidemiology at University of Toronto. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Medicine. She is past Chair of the Locally Advanced Breast Cancer Canadian National Consensus group, and has a strong research interest in this area.


Dr. Caroline Chung (Co-Chair)

Dr. Caroline Chung is the current elected Co-Chair of Women in Cancer (WinC). Originally from British Columbia (BC), she completed a Bachelor’s of Science, Medical Degree and Radiation Oncology residency at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She then completed a research fellowship at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, during which time she concurrently completed a Master’s of Science through the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Clinician Investigator Program UBC investigating translational discovery of imaging biomarkers of treatment response to radiation and targeted therapies. Following completion of her fellowship training, she took a faculty position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Toronto and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. She received Clinician Scientist salary grant support from the Ontario Association of Radiation Oncology to pursue research in imaging biomarkers of response and toxicity in brain tumors. During her time at Princess Margaret, she was the clinical co-lead of the Brain Metastasis Clinic and worked with generous donors to establish the Robert and Andrée Fitzhenry Brain Metastases Program. She is currently an Assistant Professor and the Director of MR Research in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas and an Affiliate Scientist at the University Health Network Techna Institute. Her love for adventure, challenge, innovation and people has lead to many amazing opportunities - including her involvement in WinC.


Dr. Martina Trinkhaus (Secretary/Treasurer)

Dr. Trinkaus is an assistant professor and staff hematologist at St. Michael's Hospital with the University of Toronto. She completed her undergraduate training in Life Sciences and Physical Health and Education at Queen's University and completed both her medical school and residency training at the University of Toronto. Since graduating from the Hematology training program in Toronto in 2009, she has remained at St. Michael's Hospital practicing malignant hematology and serving on many education based committees. She currently is the program director for the Adult Hematology Training Program and also coordinates the Hematology curriculum at St. Michael's. Her medical interests include medical education with research focused on mentorship and e-based learning.


Ms. Rachel Adilman (Director of Communications)

Rachel Adilman is a Canadian student, studying Medicine in Dublin, Ireland. She first became involved with Women in Cancer after graduating from her Bachelor of Science at McGill University, and helped to launch the newer organization, All in Cancer. She has been involved with both WinC and AlinC as a Project Manager and Co-Project Manager for a number of years, and has thoroughly enjoyed being able to collaborate with the Board of Directors and all WinC and AlinC members to help enhance connectedness and information sharing in the field of oncology. Her work with these two organizations has fuelled her passion for oncology, and she hopes to perhaps one day pursue a medical career in cancer care. Rachel looks forward to continuing to be involved with WinC and AlinC as much as possible during her time in Ireland!


Dr. Madiha Naseem (Director of Student and Resident Affairs)

Madiha recently graduated from the University of Toronto Medical School and is now pursuing residency in internal medicine in Southern California. She is interested in a career in medical oncology. Madiha joined Women in Cancer to help her colleagues understand the importance of connecting with mentors and learn valuable leadership skills to advance their careers.


Dr. Jeffrey Graham (Resident Representative)

Dr. Jeff Graham completed his medicine training at the University of Manitoba in 2012, followed by an internal medicine residency at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. He is now completing his medical oncology training at CancerCare Manitoba. He has had the opportunity to pursue electives in clinical oncology in both Toronto and Vancouver. Throughout his educational journey, he has been fortunate to have worked with a number of inspiring oncologists whom have shaped his career path and he believes that mentorship is an essential component of medical training. His current interest is in genitourinary malignancies.


Dr. Kasia Jerzak (Fellow and Junior Staff Representative)

Kasia completed medical school and Internal Medicine residency training at McMaster University. Then, she pursued medical oncology sub-specialty training at the University of Toronto (2013-2015) where she was the co-Chief Medical Resident.She is currently a medical oncology fellow (PGY7) at the Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre and concurrently pursuing an MSc degree in Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Toronto.

The focus of her fellowship training has been translational cancer research and her main clinical interest is in breast cancer. She is looking forward to participating in the WinC organization over the next few years. She would like to help encourage research collaborations, networking and leadership development among fellows and junior staff across Canada. Given her involvement in the AACR Associate Member Council, she is also keen to encourage young oncologists in the US and other countries to become members of the WinC group.


Dr. Scot Dowden (Executive Director)

Scot Dowden, is a Clinical Assistant Professor for the Department of Medical Oncology at the University of Calgary. He earned his Medical Degree from the Memorial University of Newfoundland School of Medicine. He did his Internal Medicine training in Newfoundland and completed his Medical Oncology training in Calgary. His clinical practice focuses on the treatment of metastatic Gastrointestinal Tumours and Carcinoma of Unknown Primary. He is the Chair of the Southern Alberta Gastrointestinal Tumour Program. He is involved in both clinical research and has received awards for excellence in teaching. Dr. Dowden also serves as the Director of the Medical Oncology Training Program at the University of Calgary and as a mentor for residents within the Department of Internal Medicine.


Dr. Zia Poonja (Executive Director)

Dr. Zia Poonja is practicing in Victoria at the BC Cancer Agency Vancouver Island Center. His areas of focus include breast, genitourinary and head and neck cancers. Dr. Poonja began working in Victoria in 2015 after completing his fellowship at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver. Dr. Poonja has had multiple positive mentorship experiences and has found that these experiences have shaped his career choices and life goals. His involvement in All in Cancer is based on his firm belief that more meaningful work can be achieved through collaboration.


Dr. Susan Dent (Executive Director)

Dr. Susan Dent is a Medical Oncologist at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre and Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Ottawa. She obtained her MD at McMaster University and completed her postgraduate training in Internal Medicine at the University of Ottawa. She continued her training in Medical Oncology in Ottawa, followed by a fellowship year in Clinical Research with the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group. She is the research lead for the breast disease site group at the Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, and a member of the IND working group for the Breast Cancer Disease Site Committee of the National Cancer Institute for Canada Clinical Trials Group. Her areas of research interest include breast cancer, and treatment related toxicities with a particular interest in cardiotoxicity. She is the founder of the Ottawa Cardiac Oncology Program as well as the Canadian Cardiac Oncology Network, organizations dedicated to improving our understanding of how cancer treatments impact cardiovascular health with the ultimate goal of preventing cardiotoxicity.


Oncologist in the Hot Seat

Have a burning question related to work-life balance, leadership, mentorship, or career development?

Since 2013, we have been featuring esteemed Canadian oncologists. The first oncologist that we featured practices in British Columbia. Since then we have been working our way across Canada, featuring oncologists from each province across the country. Our next stop is the province of Québec. From Québec, we are very pleased to introduce Dr. JF Boileau and Dr. Julie Lemieaux.

Send your great questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to have them answered by our esteemed Oncologists in the Hot Seat!


Dr. JF Boileau

Dr. Boileau is a surgical oncologist and clinician scientist at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at McGill University. He has worked as staff surgeon at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Montreal (CHUM) and at the Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre in Toronto before transferring to his current position.

His research interests are in breast cancer and clinical trials. The main focus of his research aims at using primary systemic therapy, or neoadjuvant therapy, as a more efficient way to study the effects of systemic treatments in people with breast cancer. Dr Boileau is the principle investigator of the SN FNAC Trial, a Canadian multicenter study evaluating the accuracy of sentinel node biopsy in node positive breast cancer patients following neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Other research interests include the identification of better predictors of response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy and early detection of breast cancer.



Dr. Julie Lemieux

Dr. Julie Lemieux is a hematologist and Medical Oncologist at the CHU de Québec. She is a member of the Centre des maladies du sein Deschênes-Fabia. She is a clinician-researcher at the Research centre of the CHU de Québec. She obtained her MD at Université Laval and completed a Fellowship in breast cancer at Mount Sinai Hospital and obtained a Master in clinical epidemiology at the University of Toronto. She works at the CHU de Québec since 2006.

Dr Lemieux is a member of quality of life and breast cancer committees of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group. She is also a member of the scientific committee of the McPeak-Sirois consortium.

As a medical oncologist, she treats patients with breast, lung and head and neck cancers. Her research activities are related to breast cancer, clinical trial participations and quality of life.

Upcoming Conferences

Qualitative Research Methods: A Hands on Method
September 8, 2016 in San Francisco, California

The 2016 Immuno-Oncology Update+
September 23-24, 2016 in The Omni King Edward Hotel - Toronto, Ontario

ESMO 2016 Congress
October 7-11, 2016 in Copenhagen, Denmark

The Best of Lung Cancer Summit
October 21, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario

Synergy 2016: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Interventional Oncology
November 3-6, 2016 in Miami Beach, Florida

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