Our expert answers 3 Questions
My current work focuses on improving quality and equity in the delivery of psychosocial and supportive care services within cancer programs in the United States. One of my studies, A Project to Assure Quality Cancer Care, is surveying healthcare professionals within 60 different cancer programs across the U.S. about their perceptions of how well they are delivering this care. Our goals are to use this information to improve the care received by cancer patients and their families, provide oncology social workers with tools and skills to implement and monitor psychosocial care and adhere to national standards of care, to inform social work practice, and to provide data to advocate for needed institutional resources.
Through this project, we have found some differences between different types of healthcare providers (for example, doctors vs. social workers) in their perceptions of what is or is not being provided in terms of supportive care. We have also found some differences in quality care indicators across types of institutions. For example, we observed significantly lower capacity to deliver psychosocial support services in cancer programs serving a patient population in which greater than 30 percent of patients are from non-white racial minority groups. This raises serious concerns for equity of care. There are significant unmet needs in our healthcare system, and my work aims to look at these unmet needs on the institutional level and see what’s being done, or perhaps, not being done to meet them.
As healthcare providers and researchers, we are ethically bound to derive systems that ensure safety, provide timely delivery of services that are demonstrated to be effective, and are patient-centered, efficient, and equitable. With our quality improvement project assessing psychosocial service delivery, we’re providing each of the participating cancer centers with the data that is unique to their own institution, allowing them to compare how they did to other institutions of similar size and designation, and use that feedback to implement quality improvement. As healthcare continues to transform in the U.S., we constantly have opportunities for innovation and change. Our education and training of future healthcare providers and professionals at all service delivery levels must prepare them to think in new ways, develop new solutions, and then be enabled to implement them.