Improving outcomes and addressing health disparities in cancer care

Through Marissa Fors, LCSW, OSW-C, C-ASWCM, CCM

Cancer patients face many barriers to care, including financial, psychosocial, and practical barriers. Health disparities also prevent patients from receiving optimal treatment. To be an effective case manager, healthcare professionals must have a clear understanding of the definition of this role, the overall benefits of case management, and how to assess patient needs. The priority should be to put the patient first in order to improve outcomes. Addressing inequalities in access to care is essential to adequately improve a patient’s well-being.

Case management within professional practice

According to the Commission for Case Manager Certification, case management is a “collaborative process that assesses, plans, implements, coordinates, monitors and evaluates the options and services required to meet the client’s health and safety needs. social services. It is characterized by advocacy, communication and resource management and promotes quality and cost-effective interventions and results. “1

Nurses, social workers and other professionals include case management in their role with patients in order to provide effective service. Regardless of their professional background, case managers use a patient-centered and strengths-based approach. Effective engagement prioritizes the needs of patients and identifies the most beneficial resources available.

Professional case managers take on many responsibilities in their quest to improve patient outcomes. They take into consideration the beliefs, interests and values ​​of patients, while evaluating how best to support desired goals. After performing a needs assessment, case managers will determine the best way to serve the patient. The planning and implementation stages are crucial in moving forward with the completion and evaluation of achievements.

In addition, patient advocacy is at the forefront of case management and is included in every component of the case manager’s response. Case managers have the ability to foster relationships with patients while providing the resources that best meet their needs. Patients can have complex circumstances, which justifies a more holistic approach to approaching the whole person.2

The value of case management

Overall, the interventions have a positive impact on cancer patients and give them the tools they need to overcome challenges and improve outcomes.4 When looking at financial burdens, for example, patients often report that the inclusion of case management services has been successful in relieving cost anxiety.5

Case management improves patient quality of life,3.4 and increases empowerment and self-efficacy.3 Cancer patients may face stressors that negatively impact their psychosocial, financial, physical or social functioning. These risks are even greater if a patient is isolated and unsupported. These effects can be overwhelming and long term. The inclusion of case management helps patients return to previous levels of functioning.

Inequalities in health are examples of other barriers that can affect the experience of a cancer patient. Addressing these health care disparities must be a priority for case managers. This is accomplished by developing methods to eliminate or minimize the impact they have on their health care.6Case managers can promote policies that support equality, fight for patient rights, and facilitate communication to be a strong advocate.

Addressing health care disparities

All health professionals must demonstrate culturally competent and inclusive practice to effectively address disparities. This can be done by creating a safe environment free from judgment and oppression. We play a critical role in reducing inequalities and overcoming barriers to care for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, socio-economic status, ability, identity of gender or sexual orientation. Case managers strive to support all cancer patient advocacy efforts and find culturally and linguistically appropriate resources.

A well-balanced approach to case management in cancer care will ultimately benefit the patient in a number of ways. An experienced case manager includes strategies for overcoming barriers and disparities in all aspects of their work. The integration of these skills will promote better coordination of care and better access to resources, while improving the patient’s ability to cope with cancer. With these goals in mind, case management will continue to play an important role in meeting the needs of patients.

Marissa fors is Director of Specialized Cancer ProgramsCare.

Founded in 1944, CancerCare is the leading national organization providing free and professional support services and information to help people cope with the emotional, practical and financial challenges of cancer. Our comprehensive services include case management, telephone, online and in-person counseling and support groups, educational workshops, publications and financial assistance and cost sharing. All cancersCare services are provided by oncology social workers with a master’s degree and world cancer experts.

The references

1. Commission for Case Manager Certification. Definition and Philosophy of Case Management Accessed June 21, 2021.

2. Harkey J. Case Management at the Intersection of Social Work and Health Care. Social work today. 2017: 17 (1) 20

3. Scherz N, Bachmann-Mettler I, Chmiel C, et al. Case management for improving quality of life after cancer treatment: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Cancer. 2017: 17 (1): 223. doi: 10.1186 / s12885-017-3213-9

4. Yin YN, Wang Y, Jiang NJ, Long DR. Can Case Management Improve Quality of Life for Cancer Patients? : A systematic review after PRISMA. Medicine (Baltimore). 2020; 99 (40): e22448. doi: 10.1097 / MD.0000000000022448

5. Wu C, Bannister W, Schumacker, P, Rosen, M, Ozminkowski, R, Rossof A. Economic value of a cancer case management program. Journal of Oncology Practice. 2014: 10 (3): 178-186. doi: 10.1200 / JOP.2014.001384

6. Young M. Case managers can reduce health inequalities and barriers to care.Relias Media. 2019. Accessed June 21, 2021.

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