Richmond-based Virginia Cancer Institute is the only medical practice in the United States engaged in this phase of this project. Lessons learned here will shape the Toolbox’s national launch.

Under this program, the Virginia Cancer Institute is providing the Toolbox free of charge to its patients. This comprehensive kit consists of a resources booklet and 10 CDs. The CDs cover many issues, ranging from communicating with doctors to paying for treatment and caring for caregivers. Commentary is provided by cancer survivors, their families, doctors, nurses, social workers and other healthcare professionals. Advice is practical, based on actual experiences and can be used on a daily basis.

Material is arranged so users can focus quickly on and learn about specific issues that interest them most. The kit also contains a Resource Booklet that serves as a guide to the CDs and provides a glossary, contact information for cancer associations and information on treatment, insurance and survivorship tools.

“The Virginia Cancer Institute is committed to delivering effective and compassionate care to our patients. We believe strongly in the importance of patient-physician collaboration and patient education. Distributing the ‘Cancer Survival Toolbox®’ is the perfect way to promote both these ideas. Naturally, when the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship approached us with this opportunity our entire staff readily agreed,” said Dr. Brian Mitchell with Virginia Cancer Institute.

NCCS asked the Virginia Cancer Institute in June 2011 to take part in the pilot distribution project. Subsequently, a NCCS trainer visited the practice and briefed its staff on the Toolbox contents and how to help patients use it most effectively. Staff members listened to scenarios on the CD. They also completed “homework” assignments, which familiarized them with the kit and its contents.

“We’re not just handing people the Toolbox and telling them to read its instructions. In fact, our staff is explaining how each patient can tailor the kit’s contents to his or her unique needs,” Mitchell said.

Virginia Cancer Institute began offering the kits in November. Initial patient reactions have been extremely positive. NCCS periodically meets with the practice’s staff to see how the program is progressing. The coalition will survey staff and patients during 2012, seeking ways to improve the Toolbox and its distribution.

Although Virginia Cancer Institute is giving the kit only to its patients, Mitchell encourages anyone with cancer or their caregivers to access the Toolkit online. Visitors may either listen to the same information available on the CDs or read a transcript of the recordings. They also can order the entire CD set.

The Toolbox distribution pilot program is a collaborative effort of NCCS and the Empowerment and Action for Cancer Care alliance between Genentech and Wellpoint Inc. The goal of this signature NCCS program is to encourage people with cancer and their caregivers to take an active role in their treatment and care.

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