The Importance of Personalized Communication for Cancer Patients

Stephanie GingerPatient Engagement, Patient Relationship Management

A recent study published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network titled “Determinants and Outcomes of Satisfaction With Healthcare Provider Communication Among Cancer Survivors” examined the impact of communication on cancer patients. They found that patients who were more satisfied with the communication with their care team experienced better outcomes. They found that effective, tailored communication can “improve health outcomes by alleviating anxiety, boosting mutual trust, and enhancing self-care efficacy and adherence.”

There was another important finding in the study. Patients whose baseline health was already complex – those with comorbidities in addition to cancer, for instance – reported a higher level of dissatisfaction with the communication of their care team and did not have the same outcomes.

This study is an important confirmation of how important a communication strategy that is unique to the needs and preferences of cancer patients is. We’ve written in the past about a “patient-first” strategy which is something we believe in strongly at Navigating Cancer. This study is an affirmation of that and it also provides a framework of sorts to use as you think about your communication strategy. A good communication strategy should:

  • Alleviate anxiety. We survey patients on an ongoing basis and 90% agree or strongly agree that access to personalized resources improves their satisfaction with their care. When we ask why, anxiety is a recurring theme. One patient commented, “Staying informed decreases anxiety and maintains trust with my provider.” Another wrote, “I need to know and understand what is going on, good or bad, to relieve my stress and anxiety.” Cancer is complicated and scary, but understanding what’s happening and having access to clear information they can access whenever they need it can go a long way in reducing stress.
  • Build mutual trust. Again, in our patient surveys the words trust, believe, confidence and other similar themes pop up a lot. A personalized plan for each patient can make a big difference in delivering care that patients will appreciate. Ensuring that information is delivered when it’s most relevant or important – at diagnosis, once a treatment plan is identified, when a side effect occurs is a key element of an effective plan. Navigating Cancer’s Patient Relationship Management platform has a robust patient education engine built in so this information can be delivered automatically and according to patient preferences. It lessens the staff workload and gives patients access to personalized information.
  • Enhance effective self-care. When patients understand what to expect and what to do during treatment, they are more prepared to self-manage adverse events during treatment. Communication is a big part of that. Patients may be reluctant to bother the care team in between visits, so encouraging them to communicate is key. Our Health Tracker remote monitoring program asks simple questions and prompts patients to report what they’re experiencing. This enables the care team to be proactive without adding unnecessarily to their workload. Patients designated as high risk are treated with a more sensitive scale and all patient issues are prioritized according to severity. Patients have described this as a lifeline for them – a direct line of communication to the care team.
  • Improve adherence to a treatment plan. In addition to engaging in shared decision making, think about additional ways to support patients along the way using targeted and timely communication to support adherence. Navigating Cancer’s education delivery engine can be set up to automatically deliver information not only regarding a particular treatment regimen, but also along the way when side effects typically occur. This prepares patients and gives them information they need to manage symptoms and stay on therapy. We also use a simple remote monitoring tool to check in regarding adherence if the patient is taking an oral therapy. This gives the care team insight into patients who may need extra help to lower barriers and adhere to their treatment plan.

Tailoring a communication plan to each patient and paying extra attention to those high risk patients may seem like more than your team can take on, but Navigating Cancer can help. If you’re interested in learning more about how Navigating Cancer can help automate your communication efforts, give you the tools to monitor high risk patients and improve patient satisfaction, contact us today to schedule a demo.