Investigating the use of Barrows Cards to improve self-management and reduce healthcare costs in adolescents with blood cancer: A pilot study

Annamaria Bagnasco, Simona Calza, Paolo Petralia, Giuseppe Aleo, Laura Fornoni, Loredana Sasso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim: To test if the Barrows Cards method improves adherence to immunosuppressive therapy self-management following hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation in adolescents affected by blood cancer and reduce costs. Background: Chronically ill adolescents need to be helped to improve self-management, make sure they can confidently and safely manage therapy at home and reduce readmissions and costs. We identified the Barrows Cards method, originally used to test decision-making skills and critical thinking in medical students. In this pilot study, we tested the efficacy of the Barrows Cards Method in improving adhesion to immunosuppressive therapy in a group of adolescents following hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation and analysed its cost-effectiveness. Design: A mixed-method study. Methods: The Barrows Cards method is an educational intervention based on the theory of problem-based learning that uses at least 15 cards specially designed to teach participants how to manage a specific problem. We piloted the Barrows cards method in terms of adherence to immunosuppressive therapy and self-management in a group of 17 adolescents affected by blood cancer before being discharged. Participants were enrolled between 2013-2015. Activity Based Costing was used to analyse the cost-effectiveness. Results: The Barrows Cards method significantly improved adherence to immunosuppressive therapy in blood cancer adolescents and reduced readmissions. We also showed how this method could significantly reduce healthcare costs. Conclusions: Further research is required, but the Barrows Cards method could be effectively used by nurses to improve self-management in chronic patients and reduce health costs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)754-758
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Barrows cards
  • Chronic illness
  • Costs
  • Nursing
  • Patient education
  • Problem-based learning
  • Safety
  • Self-management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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