On March 7th 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 little project would become one of the most trusted sources of cancer information for patients, families and healthcare professionals. As we celebrate our 23rd 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 330 million 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 100,000 articles. We soon pioneered 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. Many other organizations do this today!
In the first few years after launch, the OncoLink team expanded to include content written by many disciplines, including nurses, dieticians, physical and occupational therapists, social workers and more. We continue this approach today, which allows us 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 5 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 in those shoes. They know what people need at every stage of the cancer journey and provide us with lots of guidance to meet your needs.
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.
- First to develop a comprehensive education program for proton therapy providers
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). We have added lots of video content (see our Vimeo page). Our blogs include inspiring survivors, caring oncology nurses, social workers, and Registered Dieticians. Over the years we have seen a shift from desktop computer users to our current audience, of which more than half are using a smartphone or tablet to access the site.
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 – which is coming up on its 10th anniversary – has been used to create over 60,000 survivorship care plans to date.
In recent years, we have started syndicating our content for use by electronic medical record companies and device manufacturers. We help oncology practices meet regulatory requirements with our tools and co-branded materials. It is just another way for us to reach patients and families in need of reliable information!
As we continue to evolve and grow, 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!