The Learning Center: Where cancer patients go for answers

How do I download MD Anderson’s app?
Which medical websites can I trust? Where can I find the latest
research on my disease?

The information experts at MD Anderson’s
The Learning Center get questions they can’t
always answer by pulling a book off the shelf, but they’re up for the
job. Each year, the center’s digitally savvy staff provides more than
30,000 patients and families with credible information – and
compassionate support – to complement their clinical care.

Our Learning Center staff work with patients at three locations: the Main Building, Mays Clinic
and in the Rotary House.

Ready and willing to listen

Our patients receive an overwhelming amount of information. The
Learning Center staff listens carefully to patients to determine what
will be most helpful. Staff identify how they can help patients, what
information they need and how much information they can handle.

“A lot of patients come to The Learning Center stunned by their
cancer diagnoses,” says Kathy Jinkins, associate director of Patient
Education. “They don’t know what they don’t know.”

The Learning Center’s staff direct patients to free resources that
can help them work collaboratively with their care teams.

“We want to have conversations,” Jinkins says. “We listen to the
nuances of what patients and caregivers are saying and what they’re
not saying. We can sense what they need from the conversations we have.”

The Learning Center’s staff make about 1,500 referrals annually for
patients who need a social work counselor, a chaplain or another service.

Patient-friendly tech support

Patients are encouraged to use our patient portal, myMDAnderson,
to manage their care online. But that’s often easier said than done
for less tech-savvy patients and their families.

“We actually sit side-by-side and teach them how to go into their
app store and download an app,” Jinkins says.

Staff members explain that myMDAnderson is a secure, encrypted way
for patients to manage their personal health records and communicate
to their care teams. They walk patients through sections of
myMDAnderson so they’ll know how to access their medical records and
test results, as well as how to communicate with their care teams.

Patients now are responsible for filling out more paperwork to get
services authorized from their insurance providers. At The Learning
Center, they can complete paperwork immediately on one of the public
computers or using the fax machine, with help from our staff.

Guiding patients to the right information online

“Sometimes the information patients find on random websites isn’t
accurate,” says Jila Tanha, senior health education specialist. “They
find the good, the bad and the ugly.”

That’s why The Learning Center’s staff created online recommended resources. Each webpage links
to authoritative, trustworthy information. Patients can browse
resources on every major cancer type, along with hot topics such as nutrition, pain management and coping.

“Recommended resources give patients credible medical information at
their fingertips,” Jinkins says. “The patient can access it anywhere
and email the librarian who created the page with more questions about
that topic.”

The Learning Center employees continually update these webpages so
patients can get the latest information whenever they need it, adds
senior librarian Liz Brackeen.

Caring employees make long-lasting connections

The biggest reason patients keep coming back to The Learning Center
is the staff. The employees listen carefully to patients and take time
to understand their needs. Patients often write thank-you notes to
show their gratitude for the staff’s caring help.

“Thank you so much. I appreciate your research and for sending me
these articles,” one patient wrote in a card to a librarian. “They
provided some hope as well as helped me generate more questions to
ask. This is a very beneficial service to patients.”

A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger,
MD Anderson’s quarterly publication
for employees, volunteers, retirees and their families.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by
calling 1-877-632-6789.