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How Providers Can Improve Patient Experience During Cancer Treatments

A new report suggests that the integration of both patient and caregiver illness concerns can enhance care delivery and improve patient experience

Cancer patients and caregivers prioritize different concerns during treatments, but providers should address both in order to enhance the patient’s experience, according to a report from the Regenstrief Institute, Indiana University School of Nursing, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Researchers conducted the study to determine and compare what areas of concern are essential to patients versus caregivers during cancer treatment.

To perform this study researchers used the freelisting method to prompt a list of participants’ “in-the-moment” concerns regarding oncology care.

“In this study, we sought to identify which of the five supportive oncology domains — informational, physical, emotional, social and spiritual — were of greatest concern to patients and caregivers during active cancer treatment, “Kristin Levoy, PhD, MSN, RN, a research scientist at IU Center for Aging Research at Regenstrief Institute said in a press release.

The survey results found that cancer patients’ primary concerns in order of importance were pain, death, fear, family, and awful.

However, the caregivers’ list of primary concerns included phrases such as sadness, time-confusing, support, anger, tired, death, and frustration. The caregivers’ concerns were less centered on physical aspects than the patients’.

“We found that while both patients and caregivers cognitively prioritized concerns under the emotional domain, patients otherwise prioritized physical issues such as pain, and caregivers prioritized social issues such as supportive resources to help manage the patients’ care,” said Levoy, who is also an assistant professor at IU School of Nursing. 

“Of particular significance to our team was that the caregiver interviews revealed that their priority concerns were not exclusively rooted in the patients’ needs, but also stemmed from their own significant emotional and social needs,” Levoy added.

Researchers determined that care delivery improvements require additional efforts to support both the patient and caregiver as the primary unit of care.

“These divergent priorities indicate a need for enhanced whole-family approaches to supportive oncology care delivery which more readily account for the unique needs of both patients and caregivers at the time of cancer treatments to enhance the quality of care earlier in the cancer care continuum,” Levoy added. 

Family caregivers’ concerns should be valued as they are a critical part of patient care. Healthcare organizations that integrate informal caregivers into the patient discharge process can reduce hospital readmissions for elderly patients.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that the risk of 90-day readmission was cut down by 25 percent when providers integrated caregivers into the discharge process. In addition, the risk of 180-day readmission was cut down 24 percent when providers integrated caregivers into the discharge process.

Hospital readmissions are costly for providers. However, healthcare systems can reduce them by engaging family caregivers in creating a quality care experience.

Additionally, informal and family caregivers can also reduce expenses for patients as family caregivers typically perform at-home care for free, although that cost-burden and unpaid labor can often be a point of contention in the caregiver conversation.

Despite being an essential part of the patient discharge process, a study showed that many family caregivers are not receiving adequate support from hospitals and feel unqualified when delivering care to their relatives. 

According to a survey from Lincoln Financial Group, 70 percent of respondents feel like they don’t have the expertise or the ability to deliver proper treatment as a caregiver.

In addition, sixty percent of caregivers stated that they did not predict how intense the responsibility would be. They also expressed that a care management tool would have been beneficial while delivering care to their relatives.

The demands placed on caregivers can take a toll on them. Therefore, caregivers need proper tools from healthcare to support patients’ needs.

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