Cancer Council Victoria’s Cancer Information and Support (CIS) service provides a telephone support line as the means to accessing evidence-based information and support programs. The service (13 11 20) staffed by experienced oncology nurses, and underpinned by a database of community and hospital services, are trained to provide information tailored to the patients’ needs.
A recent study published in Supportive Care in Cancer by Dr Anna Boltong and colleagues, utilised a prescription pad style referral form comprising a checkbox of CIS services tailored to individual patient support needs. The study was conducted in five clinical units including day oncology, palliative care, lung outpatients and radiotherapy across a metropolitan and regional hospital setting.
In total, 52 clinicians attended education sessions and referred 430 patients in a 6-month period. The nurses, social workers, radiation therapists and medical oncologists who received training in availabiliy and eligibilty of CIS services reported a high level of satisfaction. However, a common theme in the feedback illustrated the lack of awareness of CIS programs prior to the education session and the value of being informed of the services available.
The resulting increase in calls per month to 13 11 20 indicated an increase in patient awareness and uptake of information and support. Staff evaluation showed a positive response to the referral mechanism when incorporated into routine practice. Overall, ongoing clinician education and improvements in patient-clinician communication is important for effective translation from referral to service uptake, in addition to further considerations for the appropriate time in a patients’ care trajectory to introduce a referral.