Technology to Support Personalized Care Decisions for Breast Cancer Treatment


Engaging and Empowering Patients


Using Digital Shared Decision-Making Tools to Support Personalized Decision Making

Enhancing personalized care decisions, using technology designed with human factors engineering approaches, can improve breast cancer care quality.

Patients face an array of breast cancer treatment options

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, but treatment decisions can be complex. Each treatment option brings different benefits, risks (e.g., short- and long-term side effects), and implications (e.g., treatment duration) for the patient. Women need to be fully informed of all viable treatment options, and their treatment decisions should be based on their values, preferences, and goals.

It is challenging to successfully discuss all relevant factors in time-constrained clinical encounters, and patients may not divulge all personal issues and needs. For example, a mother with small children may have constraints given her family needs, while chemo-induced brain fog may significantly affect the working life of a teacher. These factors can have major impacts on the patient and their quality of life. How can we better support women in weighing the pros and cons of treatment options so that the path they select best aligns with their values, preferences, and goals?

“One of the patient advisory members is a long-distance runner. She had breast cancer and had to have chemotherapy and got significant neuropathy in her feet and in her hands, which can be a common side effect of chemotherapy, and she's no longer able to run. Luckily, she's in remission, but running was a really big hobby of hers, a passion of hers. I am trying to think of things like that, that might become a part of the conversation when patients are diagnosed and choosing between different options.”- Dr. Megan Salwei

Technology will help support team decision making in breast cancer

To better support more comprehensive, personalized decision making when selecting breast cancer treatment options, Dr. Megan Salwei and a team from Vanderbilt University Medical Center are developing a tool called COMputerized PAtient-centered Collaborative Technology (COMPACT).

COMPACT will gather relevant information from patients on their preferences, goals, and questions ahead of a patient’s visit via a patient portal. It will then integrate that information with evidence-based guidelines and medical data from the woman’s electronic medical records, such as age, genetic testing results, and tumor type, to generate patient-optimized treatment options. The tool will present this information in a shared display to facilitate real-time conversations between clinicians, patients, and family caregivers as they make treatment decisions.

COMPACT will be unique compared to other decisions aids because it will support the entire decision-making process in a woman’s breast cancer journey: before, during, and after initial treatment discussions. The technology will support patients throughout their cancer journey by monitoring treatment progress and supporting additional decision making when the care trajectory deviates from the desired path.

The system will be designed with users in mind

COMPACT will be developed using human factors engineering, which focuses on designing systems to support the strengths and constraints of the people within the system. This ensures the COMPACT technology will fit patients’ and providers’ needs in the environment that it will be used. As Dr. Salwei noted, “The human-centered design process ensures that whatever I develop is supporting the users, which would be patients as well as clinicians.”

Once developed, the team will evaluate COMPACT in a simulated environment to understand how users interact with the technology, record how long it takes them to have conversations with the tool, and determine if it improves knowledge and confidence of decision making. Ultimately, Dr. Salwei hopes the results of this grant will inform a future randomized controlled trial of COMPACT to study its impact on patient care in a real-world setting.