FSU College of Information receives cancer research grant

Mia Liza A. Lustria

The Florida State University College of Information has received a Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program Grant from the Florida Department of Health to help health care providers support the breast cancer care needs of rural Floridians.

Mia Liza A. Lustria is the principal investigator of the project, "Participatory Design & Evaluation of STEER: A Clinic-Based Tool to Help Health Providers Support Breast Cancer Care Needs in Rural Florida," which will receive funding of $348,510 over the next three years.

"The overall decline in breast cancer deaths due to mammograms, therapies and medicines has not been shared by rural, low socio-economic status and non-white women," Lustria said, "particularly in Florida, which ranks third nationally for the total number of new cases and deaths from breast cancer."

Nationally, mammography screenings have helped stabilize breast cancer incidence and mortality, yet in Florida about one million women over age 40 have never had a mammogram. Rural women, especially those of lower socio-economic status who are less educated and who are non-white, have far poorer access to cancer services and are less likely to have had a mammogram than urban women. A lack of physician recommendations and perceived barriers to access to diagnostic and treatment services also have hindered regular mammography screenings.

While the factors contributing to disparities in breast cancer incidence and mortality are numerous and complex, experts have pointed to failures in the health care system to deliver adequate and timely cancer care as a critical issue. The FSU research project will create an automated reminder system called STEER (System for Tracking, Empowering, Equipping, and Reminding) to:

  • Send regular alerts to physicians to provide timely referrals in accordance with breast cancer screening guidelines;
  • Generate screening reminders that will include information and recommended actions tailored to patients’ specific needs or perceived barriers to cancer care;
  • Collect information from at-risk patients and enable better tracking of patients throughout the cancer care continuum; and
  • Help monitor physician and patient adherence to breast cancer screening guidelines.

"Automated reminder systems have been successful in increasing screening rates and patient adherence to screening appointments, but their sustainability in rural health care settings still needs investigation," Lustria said. "The study seeks to develop an information technology system that will not only be comprehensive but sustainable in rural settings. We also hope that the study will enhance our understanding of how to design health information technology systems in order to improve access among underserved populations and reduce disparities in the timely delivery of effective treatment and preventive interventions."