Lalan Wilfong, MD
Cancer is a complicated disease that can easily overwhelm patients and their families. Thanks to better screening tools, as well as advanced therapies and treatment options, survival rates for cancer are on the rise. Another factor contributing to better outcomes is better collaboration between physicians and their patients throughout the entire care process.
Table. How to Improve Patient Engagement1
In a 2013 report, the National Academy of Medicine stated that national cancer care had reached a state of crisis, noting that a lack of understandable and easily available information on prognosis, treatment options, likelihood of treatment responses, palliative care, psychosocial support, and the costs of cancer care contribute to communication problems.1
To describe and document these facts, oncologists in The US Oncology Network now generate a treatment plan document with each patient whenever a new treatment is started. They print and give a copy to the patient for his or her information and records. This is proving to be a very useful document, not only for the patient and family but also for the other caregivers in the clinic, because the treatment plan serves as a record of the discussion between the physician and the patient on prognosis, treatment, risks, and expected outcomes.
Techniques to Improve Communication
Another example of a tool used to increase patient engagement is a program developed and used by oncologists in The US Oncology Network called My Choices, My WishesSM
. This program combines specially trained clinicians, carefully crafted educational and resource materials, and healthcare information technology to identify patients, store treatment progress and preferences, define and document directives, and honor patients' wishes throughout their care plan.
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