Much More than A Diagnosis: Cancer Navigation Updates from the MGH Cancer Center

“Just being able to help a patient, even making one appointment is where I get my satisfaction and joy,” Lead Patient Navigator Carmen Benjamin remarked.

The Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center navigation intervention is combining electronic health records and human touch to help patients receive the most comprehensive cancer care possible. The center is using TopCare (Technology for Optimizing Population Care in a Resource-limited Environment) software to match patient navigators with newly-diagnosed cancer patients who may require extra support. Navigation services at MGH are rooted in social work, with Lead Patient Navigator Carmen Benjamin and her team working to connect patients with transportation resources, financial services, and offering emotional support during appointments.

We last spoke to Carmen when we filmed the video Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center: Patient Navigation as the Cornerstone of Cancer Care. During her interview, she expressed great satisfaction helping cancer patients overcome barriers to care. Since most of Carmen’s patients are underserved, they often present with multiple illnesses to manage in addition to their cancer, and often lack social support: “Just being able to help a patient, even making one appointment is where I get my satisfaction and joy,” she remarked. Continue reading

Advancing Health Equity with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs): An Oncology Perspective

A new Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care Webinar

Promoting health equity is an important objective for most oncology and public health researchers; however, developing an intervention designed to move beyond the written word and into clinical practice can be a challenging process. This webinar will explore what it means to work with FQHCs on pragmatic cancer-based interventions, bridging the gap between academic research and the needs of community health centers. Julie Armin, PhD and Nancy Johnson, RN, MSN, MS, PhD will introduce the University of Arizona’s fruitful collaboration with El Rio Health, one of the largest federally qualified health centers in the country. Together, they will share their experiences in developing, implementing, and evaluating interventions that deliver long-lasting community impact.

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It Takes a Village to Deliver High Quality Cancer Care

The Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care aims to increase access to care and reduce disparities by bringing together grantee sites and community partners from all over the country. By working together as a collaborative, Alliance sites are implementing targeted programs and measuring their impact, informing the conversation around patient-centered cancer care in the process.

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NASEM Releases New Report on Cancer Control

“The health care system is a federation of millions of entrepreneurs with no one in charge. No single entity can command change.”

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, recently released a consensus report that outlines several key strategies to implement a comprehensive national cancer control plan. This ambitious program aims to set a precedent that could help inform the control of other diseases. The study was undertaken by the Committee on a National Strategy for Cancer Control in the United States with support from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Cancer Society. Alliance Co-Principal Investigator Electra Paskett, PhD, served as a member of the cancer control committee.

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How Technology is Streamlining Transition of Care

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine are building a technology-based solution to tackle an ongoing challenge in cancer care delivery: effective transition of care (ToC). As Dr. Ahmed Hassoon, Co-Investigator with the Alliance to Advance Patient-Centered Cancer Care, explains, cancer patients often feel lost when they complete their active treatment; they move from intense monitoring and care to a destabilizing transition into survivorship. Studies have shown that patients in transition have a high risk of being readmitted to the hospital following their discharge, with rates of 26 percent for palliative medicine and 27 percent for general medical oncology.

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NNRT Releases Issue Brief on Patient Navigation

In January 2019, the Policy Task Group for the National Navigation Roundtable released an issue brief entitled, “Patient Navigation in Cancer Care: Review of Payment Models for a Sustainable Future.”  This resource outlines the various ways in which patient navigation services are currently funded. Case examples of short-term, long-term, and alternative funding models are given as well as their respective benefits and challenges. Finally, this document provides several recommendations for policy makers, payers, and stakeholders to improve payment models and to promote the sustainability and expansion of patient navigation in cancer care.

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World Cancer Day 2019: I Am and I Will

Cancer causes about 1 in every 6 deaths worldwide, more than AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined. Today, it is the second-leading cause of death (following cardiovascular diseases) worldwide.

Today is World Cancer Day, and the American Cancer Society has dedicated coverage of events around the globe and updates on the state of cancer research.

Find more information on the global cancer burden and the fight against cancer here.

Caring for Cancer Patients with Serious Mental Illness: A Patient-Centered Roadmap

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has recently released data showing that mental illness is a growing, largely unaddressed public health concern. Their findings show that over 44 million adults have mental illness, and of those, 16 million people (including 3.1 million youths aged 12-17) have experienced a major depressive episode.

In this context, oncology and primary care practitioners are striving to attend to their patients’ mental and physical health, monitoring them for signs of mental distress. Although it is common for 20-30% of patients to experience clinically relevant levels of depression or anxiety when receiving a diagnosis of cancer, according to Dr. Kelly Edwards Irwin of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, physicians and patients should not ignore prolonged symptoms of depression. “Depression can be treated effectively with psychotherapy and medication,” she explains. She adds that it is important to address these symptoms because they impact the patient’s quality of life and ability to engage in needed cancer treatment. Continue reading

De-Activating Implicit Bias: the University of Arizona Expands Implicit Bias Training

Dr. Jeff Stone has recently expanded his implicit bias training program and is looking to take his expertise beyond the University of Arizona. The Alliance National Program Office reached out to Dr. Stone to learn more about implicit bias and discuss the impact of his intervention.

In Southern Arizona, the largest population of underserved minority patients is of Hispanic descent.  Research shows that, even with all other factors being equal, minority patients are less likely to receive adequate health care. A growing body of research suggests that implicit bias may be one of the factors associated with this finding. Jeff Stone, PhD, from the University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC), has been working with the University of Arizona College of Medicine (CoM) to train first year medical students to recognize their own bias before they start interacting with patients. According to Dr. Stone, “by understanding the psychology underlying their bias, they [medical students] can learn to control it, no matter who they are interacting with.” The training teaches medical students a variety of techniques that have been shown to reduce bias, helping promote equitable care for all patients. Continue reading