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When KFM Inc. expanded to include a new division – MedComm – it was with the primary focus of improving the lives of patients in Canada. We work with many patient organizations and their patients, and often hear mental health awareness mentioned as an unmet need.

Along with improved patient care, equal access to new medications and improved patient support – all of which are critical important, the area of mental health amongst cancer patients seems to be an area needing much more attention. After speaking further with our patient organizations, we decided to do some further research.

MedComm recently put out a survey to the general population addressing this topic. The results were inline with the anecdotal patient feedback we have been receiving. 25% of survey respondents said they experienced feelings of sadness while having cancer. Over 70% of this same group said they experienced feelings of sadness up to three days every week, with the remaining respondents saying they had feelings of sadness up to seven days a week or all the time.

When asked if those experiencing sadness had spoken to their doctor about how they were feeling, more than 40% said no, and over 20% said they didn’t feel they had effective tools to deal with their depression in a healthy way.

The other standout was that, when respondents were asked “Do you think that the healthcare community needs to do a better job at improving awareness and understanding of mental health issues amongst cancer patients?”, over 60% responded ‘yes’ – highlighting an obvious need for deeper analysis and an improvement plan.

The respondents also left several comments regarding gaps they felt existed with respect to support and resources available to patients, in order to help them cope with their feelings of depression, anxiety and/or sadness while having cancer.

The prevailing trends in this feedback include:

  • The need for a central list of community/patient support groups, therapists and psychologists, listed by area/location.
  • A brochure that doctors automatically give to patients when they receive their cancer diagnosis – one responded articulated this by saying “I spend so much time with doctors that I don’t have time to find new doctors to deal with my depression, and the doctors I do have don’t even ask about it. It’s hard to keep my job, fight cancer and stay mentally healthy”. Having a resource or brochure that lists support groups and psychologist by area, that doctors could simply give to patients, would reduce the time needed by the patient to find support and would guide patients in the right direction of someone with the skill set to help.
  • A brochure that doctors provide patients upon diagnosis that provides an overview of some healthy and helpful tips on how to understand and cope with depression they may experience. Many respondents reported not being prepared for how they might feel emotionally and that this area of health wasn’t focused on as much as physical treatment and recovery.

As a result of these findings, MedComm, along with our patient organization partners, are developing a program addressing the unmet needs of cancer patients, focusing on greater mental health awareness. The program will include:

  1. A further in-depth gap analysis to better understand the psycho-social needs of cancer patients gaps in necessary support resources
  2. To develop an improvement plan and needed resources to respond to identified needs

 

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