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Digitally Empowered™ was created by the Patient Empowerment Network (PEN), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and made possible with the support and collaboration of Pfizer Oncology.
Our mission is to fortify cancer patients and care partners with the knowledge and tools to boost their confidence, put them in control of their healthcare journey, and assist them in receiving the best, most personalized care available to ensure they have the best possible outcome.
Our programs enhance patient health literacy to enable shared decision-making and provide informational and educational resources to empower patients and care partners at every step of their cancer journey.
Why We Created The Digitally Empowered!™ Course
While cancer is a disease that affects all age groups, 60% of people who have cancer are 65 or older. Depending on the type of cancer, the disease can progress quickly, which is why access to timely and up-to-date information is of the essence.
In today’s digital age, we have access to a wealth of health resources on the Internet. With the click of a mouse, we can find information on the latest research, clinical trials, and new drug treatments. For an older generation not brought up with the Internet, the online space can be a confusing and overwhelming place to navigate. The opportunity to acquire online health information is out of reach for those unfamiliar with the digital terrain of the Internet, mobile apps, and social media.
We want to change that.
We believe all patients, regardless of age and technical ability, should have equal access to health information to make the best decisions about their care.
So, we created The Digitally Empowered™ Course with the aim of improving the digital health literacy of older cancer patients and their families.
The Light Bulb Moment that Led to Digitally Empowered™
In 2016, Patient Empowerment Network’s Executive Director, Andrea Conners, was caring for her terminally ill mother. The illness was intense and left Andrea’s mother feeling isolated and hopeless. To ease her mother’s loneliness, Andrea taught her the ins and outs of navigating the Internet and using social media. Armed with these new skills, her mother found comfort, gained knowledge about her illness and, at times, even found joy.
While watching the local news one evening, Andrea saw a story about a car dealer who was partnering high school students with new car owners to learn to use their car’s technology to their advantage. A light bulb went off! “Why couldn’t we do for other cancer patients what I did for my Mom?” she asked herself. “ Why couldn’t we pair older patients with younger ‘digital natives’ to help patients become more tech-savvy, informed, self-confident, and in control of their cancer journey?”
This light bulb moment led to the creation of the digital sherpa™ program.
In collaboration with Florida Cancer Specialists, Cancer Support Community, and Moffitt Cancer Center, digital sherpa™ workshops are now conducted across the country in treatment rooms, community centers, and support groups. Since the first pilot workshop in late 2016, PEN has partnered with 15 universities across nine states to serve more than 5,300 patients and care partners.
Through a collaboration with Pfizer Oncology, PEN is now thrilled to be able to reach even more people through Digitally Empowered™ which offers the foundational components of the original program that participants have come to love and expect in a virtual format.
The Digitally Empowered™ online platform also serves to help further reduce health and geographic inequities by helping participants acquire the technical skills necessary to access valuable online healthcare resources, regardless of their location, and without facing health risks from 1:1 contact if they are immunocompromised.