Health officials employing 'all hands on deck' strategy to improve cancer care

Thanks to technological advancements and breakthrough discoveries, some substantial strides have been made in the war against cancer. That said, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests socioeconomic status may play a role in the chances of people dying from cancer.

In other words, there's plenty of room for improvement. Given this, professionals throughout the healthcare world are going the extra mile to improve patient care outcomes among those diagnosed with the disease - with more healthcare workers serving in various care capacities.

Patient satisfaction surveys provide understanding
Leading the charge is the National Community Oncology Dispensing Association, which has produced patient satisfaction surveys to help medical facilities get a better determination of how people with cancer are being attended to, especially during extended hospital stays.

As noted in the American Journal of Managed Care, there are several key "ground rules" to keeping patients as comfortable as possible, thereby increasing the likelihood they'll be satisfied with care. The most important of these is ongoing communication, such as keeping them in the loop as to what treatments they're due to receive, giving them undivided attention and briefing them on anything else that they may need to know. Patients' families must be shown the same due deference.

"Patient satisfaction is an attitude," the authors of the surveys wrote. "Patient satisfaction is an indirect, or a proxy, indicator of the quality of care, the provider, or their practice overall. Delivery of patient-focused care requires that we provide care in a particular way, always. It must be the best care for every patient every time."

Doctors awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology
The medical research community, thanks in part to its ongoing search for the brightest minds in scientific discoveries, is implementing similar enhancements meant to improve patient care. Indeed, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was recently awarded to James Allison, PhD, and Dr. Tasuku Honjo of the University of Texas and Kyoto University, respectively. They were recognized for their efforts in demonstrating how naturally occurring proteins can activate the immune system, potentially reducing the extent to which cancer can affect the body's cells. Their research took place during the 1990s.

"The discoveries of Honjo and Allison led to the development of several drugs which allow for the routine use of effective immunotherapy," said Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Medical Society.

In short, they made the development of several of the more commonly prescribed immunotherapy drugs of today possible, including pembrolizumab, nivolumab and lmfinzi.

Registered dietitians and nutrition experts are also engaged in improving patient outcomes, providing their clients with tips about some of the best foods that they should eat and what to avoid. For example, because they can interfere with certain treatments, people diagnosed with cancer are urged to not consume fried foods, processed meats or diets that have excessive levels of sodium. Ideal foods to eat are cruciferous vegetables, fruits and lean meats.

"18.1 million new cancer diagnoses are projected in 2018."

While certain types of cancers are down in terms of diagnosis, it remains one of the leading causes of death in the world. A report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer estimates 18.1 million new cases will be diagnosed in 2018 alone, with close 10 million dying from the disease.

A major disease requires many players
It's frequency has the healthcare industry on the frontlines, seeking out trained professionals who can make dealing with the disease easier on patients. Case managers, for example, coordinate with nurses to ensure patients understand their course of treatment and family members are also kept in the loop. Oncology clinical nurse specialists play many different roles, which can include providing patient care themselves or acting as supervisors for registered nurses. Pain specialists, as their title implies, help patients control pain and offer strategies on how to cope.

 Healthcare is one of the few industries that grows almost constantly, evidenced in monthly employment reports. And officials remain on the lookout for human capital, aiming to one day make cancer a distant memory. 

The healthcare community remains actively engaged in improving care for people battling cancer.