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Creating a new level of cancer care in Cape Breton

By: Michele Charlton

After a diagnosis of cancer, patients can often wait for a long period of time for an initial consultation with an oncology team. And sometimes, patients learn at this stage that further investigation is still required before a treatment plan can be made. Not only does this lead to significant delays in starting treatment, but it can also have a big impact on patient outcomes.

Dr. Abdulmajeed Dayyat, with the Department of Radiation Oncology at the Cape Breton Cancer Clinic, and his research team are looking to improve patient experience. Dr. Dayyat has spent most of his career in Jordan and came to Nova Scotia about a year and a half ago.

“I always wanted to have a research and academic focused career,” said Dr. Dayyat. “We can only learn by research. My favourite area of research is quality of life and patient reported outcomes.”

Dr. Dayyat noted that there are many different phases and delays that patients experience during the cancer journey. So, he began to think about what could be done in Nova Scotia to help lessen the long wait time.

“I found that a major challenge for cancer care happens before treatment even starts,” said Dr. Dayyat. “Although there are limited resources available, we need to start looking at innovative ways to see patients in a timelier manner.”

In the Timely Access and Patient Support Model Study (TAPS), patients referred to the Cape Breton Cancer Centre Department of Radiation Oncology will be seen by a nurse practitioner within three to five days of receiving their referral. The nurse practitioner navigator will complete the necessary work-ups early in the process, so when it is time to see the oncologist, all the information needed is available.

“With TAPS, we will order any necessary workup early on, so that when patients come to see the oncologist, we already have all the information that is needed,” said Dr. Dayyat. “This will help in two ways. First, it will reduce the wait time to start the treatment. And secondly, there is a big psychological impact on the patients and their families. Instead of waiting several weeks to be seen in the oncology clinic, they can now be seen right away, and talk to one of our staff members. During this time, we can also identify the needs for the patients – like if they need any nutritional support, psychosocial aspects, smoking cessation, or palliative care.”

“We want to provide patients in Cape Breton with a new level of care and support during this diagnostic phase in the cancer journey and provide them with a single-entry point to the system where they will experience seamless and continuous care,” continued Dr. Dayyat.

Dr. Dayyat noted that TAPS will unfold in three phases. Initially, the focus will be on patients who have been referred to radiation oncology. This will take roughly a year. And then, depending on those results, the project will expand to include medical oncology in Cape Breton. Finally, the hope is that it becomes a provincial model of care.

“The research will be looking at the current wait times for cancer patients, and how that wait time is reduced with this model of care,” said Dr. Dayyat. “The second thing is to look at the quality of life of the patient, and also show how this model of care will improve the patient reported outcomes compared to our conventional pathways.”

The project has already garnered a lot of excitement at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre and is a recent recipient of funding from the Translating Research into Care (TRIC) grant program.

These grants help break barriers to change by providing the resources needed to turn science and theory-based ideas into improved practice and clinical innovation. The objectives are always centred around better patient outcomes, reduced wait times and improved access to care.

“It’s very important for us to collect data and analyze it to show the success of this project,” said Dr. Dayyat. “This is a golden opportunity to solve an issue that is a cancer care program priority, and the TRIC grant is playing a huge role in helping support the important work being done at the Cape Breton Cancer Centre.”

The Translating Research into Care grant program is an initiative of the Innovation Hub and the QEII Foundation. Nova Scotia Health’s Innovation Hub leads research, innovation, and discovery within Nova Scotia’s healthcare system to deliver high-impact solutions for patients and providers. Through strategic partnerships, Nova Scotia Health’s Innovation Hub is transforming health care through leading-edge research, the best available evidence, and innovative solutions.

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