Diane C. McDonald, January 25th, 2018
World Cancer Day 2018 – observed on Sunday, Feb. 4 – is a global campaign that aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about the disease. The objective is to get as many people as possible to talk about cancer, including on social media with the hashtag #WorldCancerDay, pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action in the fight against cancer.
Leonard L. Berry, a Texas A&M University healthcare expert from Mays Business School, advocates for practical improvements in cancer care services for both the patient and the family based on his ongoing study of how to improve the service journey that cancer patients and their families take from diagnosis through treatment, recovery and in some cases end-of-life care. “Cancer not only impacts the patient but also the family, and it is especially appropriate to take a holistic approach to cancer care in discussions on World Cancer Day,” Berry says.
Drawing on Berry’s research conducted at 10 innovative cancer centers, he and his co-authors provide important guidelines for designing cancer care services that prevent avoidable suffering and improve the care experience. These guidelines focus on integrating humanity into a service that requires sensitivity and compassion.
Design cancer care services to be less stressful
Cancer care is a high-emotion service. The need for the service alone elicits intense emotions. The wonders of high-tech cancer care are best complemented by high-touch care. Guidelines for helping healthcare organizations deliver services to better anticipate and respond to patients’ and family’s emotional needs were developed based on interviews with more than 350 cancer patients, family members, oncologists, surgeons, oncology nurses, non-clinical staffers, and leaders of healthcare organizations: 1) Identify emotional triggers such as the need for cancer care services, 2) Respond early to intense emotions, including preparing patients for what’s next, 3) Enhance the patients’ control, and 4) Hire the right people and prepare them for the role. The complete guidelines are available in the Harvard Business Review.
Manage the clues in cancer care
Patients’ experiences, good and bad, accumulate as a result of clues embedded in these experiences. Clues are the signals patients perceive in using a service. When interacting with a system of care, patients filter clues, organizing them into a set of impressions. Patients may perceive clues rationally or emotionally, and clues may be defined by their presence or absence. Optimizing cancer patients’ service experiences requires sensitive management of the clues that comprise the overall service. Well-managed clues can evoke positive feelings, such as trust and hope. Poorly managed clues can exacerbate negative emotions, such as anxiety, stress, helplessness, anger, and fear.