Sunday, October 17, 2021

For Michigan’s cancer screening program, a new poll of patients

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The government in Michigan recently turned to a collaboration between two companies to capture online results about how people feel about the new screening programme. As the partnership’s website states, the “Pfizer Internet Feedback Study” examines how people absorb, interpret and take in new information about cancer and how they discuss their experience.

People who agree to participate in the survey use Microsoft Azure to access and input answers to eight questions, including whether they felt the program was valuable to health and whether they knew someone who’d used it, where it’s available, how they know someone who used it and whether they would use it again.

One of the questions asks participants to rate themselves in terms of how well they’d talk about their cancer diagnosis, care and treatment, research or fear on a scale of 1 to 10.

After the participants answer five of these questions, the survey automatically begins to ask them about a cancer-related gift, which may require action on the part of participants. The survey manager then turns the information over to someone who has access to it, usually on the fly.

That person, according to one executive who worked on the rollout, picks one question for use on the survey and uses that question to frame a question about benefits – often subtle and indirect – for individuals. The question is then asked again, and the participant is asked to answer the same questions again. They also answer questions about the cancer and may be asked to describe it in an indirect way. The program then produces an updated summary of results, all of which gets passed along to the developers.

The first benchmark question may be one that Michigan had chosen, but in lieu of that one, the question that could be used, since this was a pilot, was chosen by Pfizer, so that the company had visibility on how participants were responding, the executive said.

Another way the initiative was designed to minimize overall cost was by vetting the provider with both the Patient Insurance Liaison Program and the Pfizer Ethics and Program Integrity program, both of which work on preventing deception and misuse of the data.

A third way this was designed to mitigate costs was through creating the “I Have Cancer” section on, which the companies were able to fundraise from in order to create local kiosks so that people who live in areas where this is available would have access to a designated computer to answer the questions.

When the program first rolled out, it gave organizers and the states a clear sense of how it was going to work, said Gwen Berumen, managing director for personalized healthcare at IMS Health. But now that the rollout is a month behind schedule, “It will go beyond validation, so [it’s] going to go to use – on the revenue side, on the costs side, and how we are improving outcomes for women and families”.

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