In March of 1994, Dr. Joel Goldwein launched OncoLink, the first cancer information site on the Internet, from his office at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Goldwein thought OncoLink would be a good way for physicians to share information. Little did he know that this would become one of the most trusted sources of cancer information for patients, families and healthcare professionals. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary (how many websites can say that?), let’s look back at how far we’ve come!
In January of 1994, there were only 30,000 domains on the Internet – compare that with almost 1 billion today. OncoLink started as a source of links to cancer information on the web, before Google, or any browser for that matter! It was an easy way to connect to cancer information. Not long after its inception, the team of doctors and nurses involved started writing their own content and today OncoLink houses over 150,000 articles. This soon expanded to include to conference coverage – physicians reporting from professional meetings so colleagues around the globe could get the latest research reported the day it was presented even if they could not attend the meeting.
Over the next few years, the OncoLink team expanded to include content written by many disciplines, including nursing, dieticians, physical and occupational therapists, social workers and more. This multidisciplinary approach allows OncoLink to cover the many areas a patient may be interested in learning about, such as treatment information, side effect management, nutrition and complementary therapies.
You may not know that OncoLink is run by a full-time staff of just 3 people! We rely on the generosity and commitment of hundreds of volunteer clinicians and survivors who believe in our mission and give of their time and expertise to develop and review content. It is this group that sets OncoLink apart from other sites. The information is provided by people who work with patients everyday, or have been there themselves. They know what people need at every stage of the cancer journey and they frequently make suggestions.
Our team likes to dream big- think about things outside the usual healthcare box – and put those ideas into motion. This attitude has allowed us to experience a few online “firsts”:
- First website to provide same-day reporting from professional meetings for physicians.
- First to use an online, IRB approved, electronic consent form for a study.
- First major US-based, online cancer resource translated into Spanish.
- First website to have a clinical trials matching program, in collaboration with Emerging Med.
- First to develop a personalized Cancer Survivorship Care Plan program.
- First to develop a cancer risk assessment tool encompassing all cancers.
In the past few years, technology has continued to expand and we have worked hard to keep up! We have social media pages (Facebook, Twitter and Google+). We have added lots of video content (see our Vimeo page). Our blogs include inspiring survivors and caring oncology nurses and Registered Dieticians. We host webinars at least once a month, addressing many topics that are useful to both patients and caregivers. And to meet the needs of our mobile and tablet users, we underwent a redesign using responsive design technology.
Half of our users are nurses who are seeking patient education tools and information for themselves. The treatment binder builder allows care providers to create an educational booklet tailored to the needs of their specific patient. OncoPilot helps new patients navigate the cancer journey and keep track of appointments, medications and more. Our medication teaching sheets are used by nurses all over the world! And our survivorship care plan builder has been used to create over 35,000 care plans to date.
As we enter our third decade, our team is committed to continuing to improve the experience of cancer patients and caregivers by empowering them with reliable information. Happy birthday OncoLink – join us in celebrating this milestone!