Boehringer Ingelheim and nonprofit group Cancer Care launched a tool Thursday designed to make cancer care social.
The effort, called MyCancerCircle.net, creates free, private networks that let families and friends sign up to help caregivers with tasks like doing the shopping for patients, delivering meals or signing up to visit. Once the community leader sets up an activity that includes a description and the needed dates, they can send out an email blast. A calendar shows members what's been claimed and what's still needed. MyCancerCircle.net also links members to a list of Cancer Care's services, including events like a dial-in stress-management workshop.
The effort comes amid growing evidence that consumers are becoming more comfortable with using social media as a health resource. A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that a third of adults have read about a loved one's health experiences via outlets like Facebook or Twitter.
Yet, “this is really the first of its kind for oncology patients. We were really looking for a service that we felt was needed in this community and among these patients,” a spokesperson for Boehringer Ingelheim told MM&M.
The website is supported by Lotsa Helping Hands, which has created similar communities for partners such as the Wounded Warrior Project, the Alzheimer's Association and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Lotsa Helping Hands' chief marketing officer, Brooks Kenny, told MM&M
the average community size hits at least 50 members, but can be far larger. Kenny said that the National Family Caregiver Association, which is a Lotsa Helping Hand partner, alone brings close to 20,000 volunteers across its sub communities.
Although caregivers can easily be bombarded with advice and books that talk about the importance of setting aside time for personal matters and exercise, Kenny said that it's not enough. Caregivers “need help,” she said. Specifically, Kenny said that family and friends often want to help but lack structure. The result: caregivers and patients “end up with a lot of meals at their doorstep.” She also said that the community leaders are often friends or family members, because caregivers are already overwhelmed.
“When we see someone who has a cancer diagnosis, what do we always say? ‘What can I do to help?'” she said. Stats show the communities have taken off: Kenny said 2.1 million tasks have been claimed since Lotsa Helping Hand launched its communities in 2005.