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Cancer Survivors’ Evolving Perceptions of a New Supportive Virtual Program.

As the number of cancer survivors continues to grow significantly, so does the onus on identifying and addressing survivors’ unmet needs using innovative, person-centered, co-designed, and situation-responsive approaches. Recognizing the rapid proliferation, convenience, and sustainability of digital health solutions also means that continuous quality improvement measures, users’ involvement in their development, and systematic evaluation must be prioritized. This study’s findings suggest that a comprehensive virtual program that relies on trained volunteers and healthcare professionals can help to address the needs of participants. Future research would deepen our understanding of virtual support’s long-term and post-pandemic impact. In addition, ongoing program evaluation, initiated even before the program occurs, is key to inform and adjust program content and delivery in real-time, whether virtual or in-person.
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Purpose
This qualitative study begins to explore cancer survivors’ evolving perceptions of “Focus on the Future,” a 6-week supportive virtual program led by trained volunteers and health care professionals.
Method
Through purposive sampling, participants (n = 10) enrolled in the program were individually interviewed shortly before attending, mid-way through, and at program completion. Interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was used to develop key elements of program expectations and users’ perceptions over time. Three themes transpired from the data: (1) Trustworthiness and timeliness of survivorship information and expert guidance, (2) Normalization of survivors’ experiences, and (3) Virtual program delivery issues.
Results
Some participants’ perceptions remained unchanged from pre-program expectations to post-program completion such as appreciating the efficiency of virtual delivery and “health safe” exchanges given the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, other perceptions became more polarized including drawbacks related to “more superficial” virtual connections and uneven topic relevance as the program evolved. Program participants appreciated timely information and support from volunteers and experts through virtual means and consecutive weekly sessions. Gauging participants’ perceptions across time also offer opportunities to adjust program content and delivery features.
Conclusion
Future research should explore key program development strategies to ensure that cancer supportive programs are optimally person-centered, co-designed, and situation-responsive.
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