BACKGROUND: In this study, the authors examined the effectiveness of an online support system (Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System [CHESS]) versus the Internet in relieving physical symptom distress in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). METHODS: In total, 285 informal caregiver-patient dyads were assigned randomly to receive, for up to 25 months, standard care plus training on and access to either use of the Internet and a list of Internet sites about lung cancer (the Internet arm) or CHESS (the CHESS arm). Caregivers agreed to use CHESS or the Internet and to complete bimonthly surveys; for patients, these tasks were optional. The primary endpoint - patient symptom distress - was measured by caregiver reports using a modified Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale. RESULTS: Caregivers in the CHESS arm consistently reported lower patient physical symptom distress than caregivers in the Internet arm. Significant differences were observed at 4 months (P =.031; Cohen d =.42) and at 6 months (P =.004; d =.61). Similar but marginally significant effects were observed at 2 months (P =.051; d =.39) and at 8 months (P =.061; d =.43). Exploratory analyses indicated that survival curves did not differ significantly between the arms (log-rank P =.172), although a survival difference in an exploratory subgroup analysis suggested an avenue for further study. CONCLUSIONS: The current results indicated that an online support system may reduce patient symptom distress. The effect on survival bears further investigation.
- communication and information technology
- lung cancer
- palliative care
- quality of life
- symptom distress