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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Johns Hopkins Medicine Showcases Promising Approach to Survivorship Care

A paper recently published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship makes a strong case for a unique model of survivorship care founded on primary care. The Johns Hopkins Primary Care for Cancer Survivor (PCCS) Clinic has been successfully operating for four years, helping cancer patients cope with potential health challenges in a multi-disciplinary setting. In addition to providing full primary and follow-up cancer care services, the clinic helps patients manage long-term side effects of cancer treatment such as providing referrals to specialty services, psychosocial support, and community organizations centered on cancer survivorship. Continue reading

The University of Arizona Cancer Center: Embracing Low-Income Families

Intervention Area: Southern Arizona

The University of Arizona Cancer Center (UACC) has a long-established supportive care program. Engaging in evidence-based psychosocial and supportive care has provided a number of benefits for patients and informal caregivers. The expansion of the Un Abrazo Para la Familia intervention provides additional support to underserved populations, especially monolingual Spanish-speaking individuals.

TUCSON, AZ – Despite advances, patients with cancer still face significant barriers to receiving comprehensive treatment. When it comes to mental health and depression stemming from their cancer diagnosis, lack of adequate screening or detection of symptoms means they often lack access to effective, evidence-based psychological care. Underserved cancer patients particularly (including Hispanic/Latino, low income, rural, and elderly patients) frequently report higher rates of depression and family stress, but they are among the least likely to be able to be referred to specialized services. Patients often identify specific barriers to receiving patient-centered cancer care, including language, geography (travel times to their medical provider), limited cultural competency of their providers, and cost.

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ALLIANCE TO ADVANCE PATIENT-CENTERED CANCER CARE WEBINAR

Securing Strategic Partnerships that Improve Access to Cancer Care

Assisting underserved patients is an ongoing challenge for many cancer centers across the country. Two institutions on the front lines of achieving health equity have demonstrated creative solutions that improve access to cancer care for underserved patients in a tangible way. The Ohio State University James Comprehensive Cancer Center is able to provide smart phones for patients to monitor symptoms and remain in close contact with their care team at no added cost. The Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Health System has secured several reliable transportation options for their patients. Both organizations have leveraged key partnerships with for- and not-for-profit organizations looking to serve the public good.

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Communication Skills Training at Johns Hopkins Medicine: Empowering Cancer Patients and Caregivers

Intervention Area: Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network (JHCRN)

BALTIMORE – A multi-disciplinary team from Johns Hopkins Medicine has developed an innovative communications training program designed to encourage active participation in managing cancer-related care. Unlike existing training models, which focus almost exclusively on patients or physicians, this intervention combines the use of technology and long standing research on medical communication to reach all real world participants in a medical conversation. The program involves patients, their caregivers, and physicians, following the notion that all participants in a conversation have the potential to influence its focus and content, and caregivers often have an active role in managing a loved one’s cancer care.

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Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center: Patient Navigation as the Cornerstone of Cancer Care

Intervention Area: Northeastern Massachusetts

BOSTON – Most cancer diagnoses begin with a primary care physician (PCP), with PCPs remaining involved throughout the continuum of cancer care. According to a recent study, more than 50% of PCPs had a role in shaping treatment preferences for individual patients. After receiving an initial diagnosis from primary care, patients are usually transferred to oncology for further testing and treatment. If this transition is not properly coordinated, it is possible for vital information to be overlooked, or for patients to miss crucial treatment stages. This is especially true for underserved and vulnerable patient populations, who face significant socio-economic barriers to getting the care they need. The Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center’s intervention aims to improve care for newly diagnosed patients on multiple fronts: the TopCare registry can help detect patients in need of additional support, and Patient Navigators are empowered to step in and act as a conduit between primary care and oncology services.

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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine: The Right Care at the Right Time.

Intervention Area: Chicagoland Area

CHICAGO – As cancer treatments evolve and grow in complexity, it can be very difficult for cancer patients to receive continuous, high-quality care: while the majority of cancer treatment journeys begin with primary care physicians, patients typically move between a wide variety of facilities and specialties throughout the course of their care. They may receive surgery at one hospital, get transferred to a different facility for chemotherapy, and then go back to primary care physicians for information on survivorship care. With each transfer, there is a potential for miscommunication, resulting in care delays and frustration for patients and their families. This fragmentation is especially dangerous for minority and underserved populations, who are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at later stages (cancers are likely to be more aggressive), have financial challenges, lower levels of social support, poor nutrition, and low physical activity levels.

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine developed the 4R model to provide patients with a clear project plan of their treatment, regardless of how many facilities may be involved in their care or their stage of treatment. 4R care plans include information on cancer care, managing their care alongside other chronic illnesses independent of their cancer diagnosis (comorbidities), preventive care, supportive services, and lifestyle choices. The goal of this intervention is to optimize the coordination, flow, consistency, quality and satisfaction of care and communication among the care team, patients, and caregivers (family members, etc.). With the care plan serving as an “anchor”, patients will be more likely to make use of support services necessary and appropriate for optimal health, regardless of location of care, patient income, race/ethnicity, or other factors.

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