A new project that used an online tool to offer support to people after cancer treatment ended was rated as excellent by 90% of those involved in the pilot. Cancer nurse Pamela Rose explains how the project works.
It can be said that a cancer diagnosis is a life changing experience that can impact on every aspect of life and that of those around you.
Some focus on the milestones of making it through surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy so that they can get back to their normal life.
But for many this sense of normality won’t be reached due to the after effects of treatment.
Patients can experience changes in their physical function resulting in a loss of independence; they can struggle with the emotional impact of their diagnosis, face financial difficulty and experience changes in relationships with those closest to them.
Sadly they don’t always know where to turn for support with these issues and their needs often go unmet.
We wanted to help patients manage these unmet needs, and in 2016 our Transforming Cancer After Treatment project was launched.
Our project focused on offering patients holistic care needs assessment and care planning. However rather than inviting the patient back to clinic to have their needs assessed we offered them an electronic assessment via online tool, DOCOBO-WEB.
This allowed them to access the assessment on a day and at a time that suited them from the comfort of their own home.
A total of 58 patients signed up to the project and were offered a monthly online assessment for up to six months.
We put together self-management information for each concern included in the assessment (we used the Sheffield Profile of Assessment and Referral of Care).
This included simple tips on what they could do for themselves and what professionals or services could help them.
It was uploaded onto DOCOBO-WEB and could be accessed by the patient at anytime.
It was hoped this would give them the confidence to self manage some of their concerns and independently access appropriate services.
Patient choice is important to us. So when patients completed their assessment we offered them the option to meet with us to discuss their concerns or have a chat over the phone.
The majority of patients opted to chat over the phone. As a nurse this was surprising. Patients prefer to come back to clinic and see us, don’t they?
As a nurse we need to see our patients to build a relationship with them and properly assess their needs, don’t we?
The outcomes from the project have certainly made me consider these view points.
As the majority of patients opted for a telephone consultation they didn’t have to worry about arranging transport to bring them to a clinic appointment, have the additional stress of trying to find a parking space, nor have relatives take time from work to go to clinic with them or take time off of work themselves.
Not only did it save patients time it was also time efficient for us. A telephone consultation took on average 20 minutes compared to 48 minutes for a face to face consultation. This freed up capacity to care for more patients.
However this didn’t mean that we compromised on the quality of care provided. It was quite the opposite in fact with 90% of patients rating the service as excellent and 10% rating it as good.
As a virtual nurse I rarely see the patients I care for. I’ve had comments from peers that they couldn’t do my job; they’d miss the patient contact too much.
However I became a nurse because I wanted to help people and make a difference.
What this project has shown is that we don’t need to see our patient to help or to make a difference.
We just need to give them the time to share their concerns with us and to listen. The use of online holistic care needs assessments and telephone consultation gives the patient the opportunity to do this from the comfort of their own home rather than attending clinic.
When we deliver care that’s focused on the needs of the patient we can actually become more efficient, more effective and achieve better patient outcomes.
Our project is an example that the use of technology in healthcare can help us do that.