More and more cancer patients are increasingly likely to survive, thanks to earlier detection programs, better treatments and improved care. The latest Cancer Australia figures show 69 per cent of Australians diagnosed with cancer survived[i]. But sadly, many are not thriving in their post-cancer lives, and this is a common challenge for both patients and their insurers.
Up to 40 per cent of cancer survivors do not return to work because of fear of recurrence, depression, anxiety and cancer-related fatigue[ii]. The onset of COVID-19 is deepening this problem as patients deal with social isolation and the anxiety of knowing they are at higher risk than the general population.
CancerAid Coach Program is a powerful tool that is helping cancer patients do the things that are evidence based to help them return to an active and satisfying life after their ordeal.
Research has shown that patients who are engaged with their own healthcare – through activities like logging symptoms, doing exercise and undergoing appropriate rehabilitation – have better health outcomes.
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CancerAid co-founder and radiation oncology specialist, Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh, says health coaching has delivered positive impacts to patients living with chronic diseases, particularly for those with cardio-metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity. The CancerAid Coaching Program is applying a similar approach to cancer patients.
“As cancer outcomes improve and increase survival rates, so too does the concept of cancer as a chronic disease and thus behavioural change becomes important,” Murali-Ganesh says. “Often patients may not know the evidence behind which particular activities may be meaningful, from a scientific literature perspective. The goal of the CancerAid program is to empower patients to be more active participants in their own health, in particular on clinically meaningful activities.”
CancerAid began purely as an app that directed patients towards activities that best help them recover. But behavioural change is difficult to bring about, and only a very small proportion maintained sustained use in the longer term.
In response, the team introduced a human touch, which proved to be the missing link to drive up engagement. Dedicated health coaches who are trained allied health professionals, nurses and doctors help patients through a digital curriculum that empowers them to return to healthier lives, including return to work, to regain a sense of normalcy.
Upon enrolment and receiving their first phone call from their health coach, there is a 93 per cent program engagement rate from patients.
“Cancer patients are in a particularly vulnerable situation and so we find that the addition of a human touch, rather than technology alone, is critical for providing an appropriate level of empathetic support for these patients,” Murali-Ganesh says.
“We have seen a significant increase in patient engagement since the introduction of the coaching component and we have also demonstrated improved clinical outcomes, including shortening the time to return to work.”
Doing what matters most
The program provides both structure and encouragement for cancer patients to do the things that are most likely to assist their recovery.
Maintaining an active involvement in daily life, minimising disruption to life roles, managing feelings of hopelessness and regulating the normal emotional reactions to illness are helpful strategies in reducing the risk of developing a mental illness, and the program educates customers about this.
Source: Investment Magazine