OncoLink in the News: How Our Spanish-Speaking Visitors Use OncoLink en español

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Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: November 4, 2007

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As some OncoLink visitors may already know, OncoLink en español was launched in 2005 to assist Spanish-speaking visitors in their quest for information. Like their English-speaking counterparts, Spanish-speaking patients and caregivers use the Internet to learn about their disease, treatment options, and methods for managing side effects of therapy. The number of web pages devoted to medicine and oncology care continues to grow exponentially. Although Spanish-speaking patients are increasingly using the Internet to solicit knowledge about their illness, there currently are very few web-based oncology resources written in Spanish. OncoLink presented data on the usage of OncoLink en español this week at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology’s (ASTRO) 49 th annual meeting in Los Angeles.

The number of visitors to the Spanish site jumped a whopping 400% in 2006, from 7,000 visitors in the month of January to nearly 29,000 a month by the end of the year, for a total of over 204,000 visitors in 2006. In contrast, the English site (www.oncolink.org) had nearly 2 million visitors in 2006, with the average number of monthly visitors remaining constant at around 160,000.

The English site sees little variability in terms of the day or time that visitors are viewing the site. Interestingly, the Spanish site had fewer visitors on weekends and was busier in the afternoon and evening. This may reflect where and how Spanish-speaking visitors are utilizing the service, perhaps at work, school, or public access sites (libraries, cyber cafes).

While the most frequently searched cancer types among English OncoLink readers largely mirrored the most common cancers in the United States, including breast, liver, skin, brain, and colon cancers, OncoLink en español readers most often search for information on gastric, leukemia, cervical, vaginal, penile, and testicular malignancies. Spanish site visitors were more likely to come through a search engine, as opposed to a bookmark or direct website address, and spent less overall time on the site, when compared with OncoLink viewers.

It is clear that Spanish-speaking patients are interested in learning more about health issues, yet few reliable Spanish web-based resources are available for these patients. This study may help site designers see the potential differences in how this population uses the Internet. As additional web-based resources written in Spanish become available, and as the Internet becomes more widely accessible, the increased knowledge that will be gained among Spanish-speaking oncology patients will help to eliminate healthcare disparities and lead to improved medical outcomes.