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To document the current clinical practice in 2017 for assessment of supportive care needs and provision of supportive care to women with gynecological cancer and their caregivers in Australia, and to identify the main enablers and barriers to care provision.
A total of 64 health professionals who care for Australian women with gynecological cancer responded to an electronic survey which explored their use of needs assessment, service-level processes and protocols for support service provision, and identified enablers and barriers to provision of care to both patients and caregivers. Eight respondents underwent an additional in-depth interview to elaborate on enablers, barriers, and gaps in the provision of supportive care.
Mostly, needs assessment for women and caregivers was part of current practice but done without validated tools or a checklist. Only 30% of respondents reported having documented referral pathways. Most respondents simply recorded a plan for meeting needs within the patients’ medical record (63% for patients; 46% for caregivers) rather than using a formalized care plan (15% for patients; 6% for caregivers). The interviewees’ comments supported survey results that having sufficient time to discuss issues was both the most important enabling factor and the greatest barrier to successful supportive care provision. The interviewees further discussed variations in needs based on age, cultural background, and phases within the cancer care continuum, and that best practice supportive care should involve a multidisciplinary team and customizable protocols.
Significance of results
There is much room for improvement in the assessment of needs and provision of supportive care to women with gynecological cancer and their caregivers. Approaches to optimize use of consultation time (e.g., needs assessment tools and referral protocols) are necessary. Flexibility in the form and mode of delivery of support may be required to meet diverse personal preferences and incorporate caregivers.
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