Enhancing cancer care through patient-centric approaches

By NSW Regional Cancer Research Network (NSWRCRN) posted 01-11-2023 09:29 AM



Alison Hofman highly values patient-reported measures (PRMs) for enhancing psychosocial support for patients with cancer. With over two decades experience in oncology, emergency, and intensive care nursing, and as a dedicated Cancer Care Coordinator at Tamworth Hospital, Alison recognises the challenges and opportunities facing the implementation of PRMs in regional and remote areas. This has been further highlighted for Alison while undertaking her master's in advanced nursing. It’s this knowledge and practice gap that inspired Alison to seek new and innovative methods to utilise PRMs, aiming to improve healthcare professionals' insight into patient experiences and refine referral and psychosocial care processes.


 Alison's journey from the emergency department and intensive care nursing into oncology was influenced by her mother's battle with ovarian cancer. Witnessing the remarkable efforts of the healthcare team throughout her mother’s treatment inspired her to make a meaningful impact in this area of healthcare. Motivated by her mother’s treatment experience, Alison applied for a position with the oncology team at Tamworth Hospital's North West Cancer Centre, embarking on a mission to support cancer patients along their own challenging treatment and care journeys. 


Now, Alison has been awarded a NSW Regional Cancer Research Network research grant to undertake her project titled, “Embedding Patient Reported Measures to optimise psychosocial support referral pathways for rural cancer patients.” This project draws on Alison’s previous experience working with patients during an externally-sponsored clinical trial at Tamworth Hospital site. During this trial the invaluable benefits of collecting PRMs was apparent: PRMs served as a powerful tool for patients to subjectively express concerns about their physical, social, psychological and emotional wellbeing. In the clinical trial, Alison played a lead role in receiving alerts of concern from patients and promptly connecting with them to make the appropriate referrals: “Collecting patient reported measures gives unique insight into the patients' wellbeing, so that we can direct them towards the most appropriate resources for optimal support,” Alison explains.


These assessments therefore acted as a vital communication tool, enabling identification of patient needs and subsequent referrals for appropriate support. At the same time, challenges were identified when transitioning these processes from the clinical trial context into routine practice. 


Recognising the significant potential of PRMs for improving patients’ experience of care and treatment, as well as acknowledging some of the challenges involved in embedding PRMs, Alison and the team at the NWCC are now working on the integration of the new Cancer Institute-led state-wide PRMs system, aligning seamlessly with National Standards. Alison’s particular interest and the focus of her own NSWRCRN-supported project is on incorporating patient reported measures into routine care and refining the psychosocial support pathways for patients’ post-assessment, and particularly in the rural-regional setting of Tamworth and surrounds. Through qualitative research, including interviews with both patients and staff, Alison is working to address gaps in understandings of patient and staff perspectives on PRMs, and ultimately aims to support a more holistic approach to cancer care.


The NSW Regional Cancer Research Network is funded by the Cancer Institute NSW through a Translational Cancer Research Capacity Building Grant and established through NSW Regional Health Partners.