Cancer Care has found teleconference workshops to be an innovative and effective method of offering education and information to cancer patients and their families, particularly those who are geographically isolated or homebound because of their illness or treatment.

We think you will find the teleconference format useful as well and have developed a "Nuts and Bolts" guide to help you launch such a program for your patients and their families:


Teleconference workshops combine traditional health education with modern technology to reach audiences unlimited in size or location, directly in their homes or offices. For those who live in remote areas, who are elderly and frail, or who are homebound due to cancer or its treatment, teleconference workshops serve as a lifeline to the outside world. The teleconference format is also valuable because shorter hospital stays offer patients fewer opportunities to learn about treatment.

A single Teleconference delivered in a timely fashion can have a profound effect on participants. In the words of a Cancer Care patient who participated in a one-hour teleconference workshop, "Strategies to Manage Cancer Pain at Home": I felt like weeping after it was over. I have been in pain for over a year and tried different doctors, medications, etc., but never felt the respect and hope that came through that one hour over the telephone.


The goal of teleconference workshops is to provide education and support to cancer patients and their families who are unable to travel for face-to-face services. Topics that Cancer Care patients have found helpful include: dealing with treatment side-effects, coping with fatigue, communicating with physicians, managing pain, managing stress and loneliness, as well as workshops on specific diseases such as prostate cancer, lung cancer, and breast cancer.

For teleconference workshops with less than fifty people, Cancer Care offers a question-and- answer session at the end. Larger audiences make the interactive format difficult, in which case callers are encouraged to seek individual help through our toll-free Counseling Line (1-800-813- HOPE).


Planning a teleconference workshop is similar to planning a traditional educational program. After you have identified your topic, it is important to develop educational objectives for the program and design a workshop to meets these goals. Target your audience to maximize the effectiveness of your program and consider who your presenter(s) should be: a physician, nurse, social worker, or other professional. Once the program has been delivered, evaluation is essential to ensure that you are meeting the needs of participants. A more detailed description follows:

Developing Program Objectives:

In order to deliver an effective program that meets the needs of participants, it is important to define objectives. For example, if the teleconference workshop is entitled "Coping with Chemotherapy," the objectives may state: At the end of this workshop participants will be able to (1) understand how chemotherapy works; (2) recognize the major side-effects; (3) take steps to resolve these symptoms; and (4) communicate concerns about side-effects to their health care team.


It is advisable to begin recruiting participants at least one month prior to the program. Registration can be offered either via telephone or through the mail. Cancer Care promotes programs to its patients and has also relied on a network of health care providers -- through hospitals, community agencies, and physician's offices -- to make appropriate referrals.

Information Kit:

Prior to teleconference workshops, Cancer Care mails participants an information kit including: (1) instructions for participation (listed below); (2) educational materials, which can either be developed or obtained free of charge from organizations such as the Cancer Information Service or pharmaceutical companies; and (3) a satisfaction/evaluation survey.

Instructions for Participation:

Because of the unique nature of the teleconference format, Cancer Care asks participants to follow these instructions:

(1) Please leave your telephone line open for at least fifteen minutes prior to the start of the group.

(2) The operator will telephone you and place you on hold while connecting all of the other participants.

(3) There will be a roll-call at the beginning of the workshop.

(4) Please listen for the first thirty-minutes, saving your questions for the end.

(5) Please state your name before asking a question.

(6) Please speak one at a time.

(7) Please keep background noise to a minimum.

(8) Please ignore call waiting, doorbells, and beepers.

(9) Please do not use a speaker phone during the workshop.

(10) If you experience technical difficulties, please call theoperator at (800) XXX-XXXX.


Assessing the impact of a teleconference workshop is important. Evaluation results can be used to judge the worth of a program, to increase program effectiveness, and to meet accountability requirements. Cancer Care also uses results to demonstrate the need for additional programs and to garner support from funders. Evaluation surveys should be tailored to each specific program and can be administered via telephone (higher compliance rate/more costly) or through the mail (lower rate of return, less expensive).

Essential components of an evaluation should include:

(1) A program satisfaction questionnaire that asks: Did you enjoy the workshop? Did you approve of the speaker as an expert in the field? Would you recommend the program to a friend?

(2) An outcome survey that measures the program's impact on participant's knowledge and attitudes.


Teleconference workshops can vary greatly in cost. To project a budget, it is necessary to estimate the number of participants (which you may need to limit), predetermine the length of the workshop, and contact your telephone carrier for rates. Do not forget to add in staff time, costs to develop printed materials including the brochure and evaluation, and postage.

If your organization is unable to meet the projected budget, we have developed several ideas for funding. While Cancer Care does not charge participants, this is one option. Another option is seeking support from a corporation, foundation, or individual, and recognizing these sponsors on promotional material. To do this, Cancer Care recommends developing a proposal including a description of the teleconference workshop, its objectives, who it will help, how its success will be measured, and a budget. This should be sent to targeted prospects that have an interest in the topic or your organization.