Many patients with haematological malignancies, particularly those who have to relocate for specialised treatment, require financial assistance but are unaware of how to access the support they need, a study shows.
But according to Adjunct Associate Professor Pam McGrath, from the Institute for Health Research at The University of Notre Dame the clinical team can help with this issue by actively directing families to patient support groups and resources such as patient travel and accommodation schemes.
She recently published findings from in-depth interviews with 45 haematological cancer patients in Queensland.
The findings showed that more than half of the patients had no idea where to access financial counseling or assistance.
“Good questions to build into the clinical interview include ‘How are you doing financially?’ and ‘Do you know about these support services?’,”Professor McGrath said in an interview.
She said without advice and support, it was possible for patients and the carers in families to make decisions they might later regret such as prematurely selling businesses or resigning from jobs.
“For some people – those with supportive employers or those with a nest egg – the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis is not so great.”
However people from regional, rural or remote areas and young people who might not yet have savings to draw on could be particularly vulnerable.
She said clinicians could also help alleviate the burden on patients by looking for opportunities to devolve routine monitoring and follow up to local medical services including GPs.
“I certainly applaud the trend to decentralise services and in some places use telemedicine and patient assisted technologies to reduce the need for patients to travel long distances,” she said.
She added that people cannot anticipate the effect of cancer on their finances and its flow-on effects to areas such as relationships and independence.
Guidelines on cancer services such as those from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommend raising the topic of finances with patients.