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Improving outcomes in oncology: patient centricity and mental health

A key challenge in healthcare is how to proactively address unmet needs using patient-centric campaigns and resources, particularly in a time when ‘in-person’ care is limited. How can this be overcome?

More  than 50,000 people are estimated to have missed out on cancer diagnosis during the pandemic, and around half of cancer patients have had care disrupted. Treatment delays during the first year of the pandemic have caused significant increases in stress, anxiety, and depression.

For the ~2 million people in the UK living with cancer, finding the correct support can be hard as the mental health impact of cancer changes throughout the patient’s journey. It’s vital that they have access to dynamic, person-led support from diagnosis to treatment and beyond. People with mental illness should have their physical health needs addressed, while those with cancer must have their psychological concerns acknowledged.

Currently, a stigma of these conditions and a lack of understanding often lead to poor treatment outcomes. Chronic illness in itself is a risk factor for developing mental illness – this can have a huge impact on survival outcomes.

  • Poor communication and impersonal care   that disregards mental wellbeing is a major cause of anxiety and depression   in people with cancer
  • This increases risk of relapse and   decreases pain threshold, and social isolation may increase cancer   progression due to stress mechanisms
  • The organisation of physical and   mental health into silos compounds the problem, compromising care and leaving:
    • patients lacking advice, or
    • HCPs caring for patients outside   their specialism

The Patient Information Forum found that around 5.5 million people in the UK were not given helpful information when receiving their diagnosis. This highlights an immediate need for trusted sources of practical, timely and up-to-date information in this period of uncertainty for patients.

What can you do to help effectively support patients?

Holistic care requires us to meet the physical, emotional, and social needs of the patient. By creating action-led communications, you can support cancer teams to guide their patients through the psychosocial consequences of cancer care.

It’s effective to complement this approach by also developing assets which can empower patients – giving them a trusted source of practical information and the tools to address their material and emotional needs.

Patients know what information they want and need – connect with patients and families and use real-world treatment and recovery stories to engage on a personal level with other patients. Use language that aims to be inclusive and positive, and encourage self-care and open dialogue with healthcare teams.

Make your resources relevant, easy to find in the places a patient might look, and user-friendly in simple engaging formats. Consider delivering complex information through remotely accessible digital tools to support patients in-between contact with clinicians.

Patients want information on their health, and treatment that cannot always be given in appointments. You can give them valuable, bespoke assets to manage their wellbeing and learn about their care independently – this can reduce information overload and improve their interaction with healthcare.

The best modern healthcare is individualised, person-centred and accessible; start tailoring your patient resources with accessible, evidence-based strategies to enable them to live better and live longer.

Miranda Stead, Director at Mednet Group, mstead@mednetgroup.co.uk

Holly Ross, Senior Medical Writer at Mednet Group, hollyr@attigo.me

14th February 2022

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