World Cancer Day
On Monday 4th February, MediStays joins a global movement of communities sharing World Cancer Day. World Cancer Day aims to raise awareness of the differences in access to cancer detection, treatment and care across our communities. World Cancer Day was started by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) who state “access to life-saving cancer diagnosis, treatment and care should be equal for all – no matter where you live, what your income, your ethnicity or gender”.
This is closely aligned with our mission at MediStays; supporting Australians to access the best medical care available. Australian cancer centres offer some of the best cancer care in the world. However, it is more difficult to access these tests, treatments and care when you live in rural and regional towns.
Living away from their support network of friends and family can be a difficult experience for many patients and their loved ones. So, how else can we support patients living in regional and rural Australia? How can technology help to provide high quality medical care for people living hundreds of kilometres away from the hospital?
What is tele-health?
An exciting and relatively new development in medicine and cancer care is tele-health. Tele-health enables patients to connect with their medical team ‘remotely’. Using new communication technologies such as video and phone conferences, patients can speak ‘face-to-face’ with their doctors, nurses and allied health staff from their home or GP clinic. This convenient service
Overcomes the barriers of getting to the hospital.
Saves patients the energy, time and expense of travelling long distances.
Can minimise waiting times
An easier option for patients with their own carer responsibilities at home – some patients have young children or elderly parents, for example, that they need to arrange alternative care for when travelling themselves.
Is easier for working and self-employed patients, who can dial in for an appointment rather than taking a whole day or more off work to attend the hospital in person.
How tele-health is supporting Peter & Lois.
Peter shared with MediStays recently “I travelled two and a half hours from home to have my cancer treatment. It was too far to travel there and back every day for six weeks. Lois and I stayed in the apartment close by, that was peace of mind for both of us. Originally, I also thought I’d need to make lots of trips back to the hospital for follow-up visits. But they told me I could do some of these visits with the tele-conference”.
Peter said “I was pretty tired, and it was great not travelling the five hour-round trip to see my doctor”. “Those trips are really tiring, especially when we have to leave home before 6am for an early morning appointment”. He continued “I will still visit the hospital for scans and a few tests. But the tele-conference ‘visits’ with my doctor are much easier. I think it’s a great service!”
Another new and exciting development in cancer care is tele-trials. It was fantastic to learn more about this exciting initiative from Dr Rob Zielinski. Dr Zielinski is a Medical Oncologist at the Central West Cancer Centre, in Orange, 3 1/2 hours north-west of Sydney. Dr Zielinski is passionate advocate of clinical trials and rural health. He explained that “Tele-trials is a simple concept and at its core is aiming to expand the reach of clinical cancer trials to patients who live outside large cancer centres”. He continued “I have lost count of the number of times my patients have asked why a trial that is run in Sydney cannot be delivered remotely in Orange”.
Colorectal cancer tele-trial in NSW
“The first tele-trial to enrol patients commenced in 2018.” shared Dr Zielinski. “The trial compares 200mg daily aspirin vs a placebo tablet to prevent colorectal cancer recurrence in patients with treated colorectal cancers. The trial is sponsored by the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group (AGITG) and will hopefully be practice changing. For the tele-trial, Orange Hospital is acting as the primary trial site and three patients from the Dubbo region have been successfully recruited. We use existing logistic channels to ship the experimental drug and my trial nurses in Orange dial into Dubbo Hospital using existing video-conferencing equipment. We are busy collecting data on patient experiences of this model. We look forward to presenting this in the near future. Adding the option of the tele-trials has boosted our enrolments by 10%.”
Dr Zielinski also explained “The second open tele-trial is located in North Queensland and this is testing an exciting new breast cancer drug. Lastly, there has been and continues to be considerable industry and government efforts to further expand the model.”
The future of tele-trials
In conclusion, Dr Zielinksi shared
“I believe that in a few years-time, many regional and rural patients will enjoy increased access to exciting clinical trials without needing to leave their local area. And wouldn’t that be wonderful!”
MediStays supporting patients travelling for medical care
MediStays supports patients and their families to find short stay accommodation near hospitals, while they undergo specialist tests, medical imaging or surgery. We also support patients requiring accommodation for much longer periods, when they need to receive radiation therapy and chemotherapy. In addition to supporting our community with discounted rates at a range of apartments and hotels, MediStays also links patients in with not-for-profit accommodation options. These include the Fight Cancer Foundation, Ronald McDonald Houses and Parramatta Mission.
For further information about the colorectal teletrial ASCOLT – visit with AGITG website here.