Newcastle Cancer Control Collaborative (New-3C), NSW

Exploring experiences of medical errors among cancer patients

A cross sectional survey of 1136 medical oncology patients and 166 haematology patients was conducted to explore patients’ perceptions of whether or not an error had occurred in their care, and if so, what steps were taken by the hospital or health care team. Eligible participants were aged 18 or older, English speaking and with a confirmed diagnosis of cancer. Participants completed one survey at the time of recruitment and a second survey approximately four weeks later. Preliminary analyses indicate that 148 (13%) of medical oncology and 42 (26%) of haematology patients report experiencing an error in their care. Of those who reported an error, one third (n=46) of medical oncology and six (14%) haematology patients reported that the error was associated with severe harm. For medical oncology patients, the proportion of patients reporting an error who reported perceiving that one of the following had occurred, ranged from one third to just under half: an explanation for the error; an apology or; being informed that steps had been taken to prevent the error from reoccurring. For haematological cancer patients, more than two-thirds reported they were told about the adverse event as soon as it happened, and were given an explanation about why the adverse event occurred. Data indicate that a substantial minority of patients perceive that an error has been made in some aspect of their care. There also appears to be significant scope to improve communication following the experience of a perceived error in care.

Extending treatment centre opening hours to accommodate working medical oncology outpatients

A cross sectional survey was conducted to examine whether the opening hours of medical oncology treatment centres impacted on outpatients’ ability to continue working. Participants were recruited from six major medical oncology treatment centres across five Australian states. Two survey items explored, whether: 1) extended treatment centre opening hours (e.g. weekends, evenings) would allow the patient to continue to work during cancer treatment; and 2) the patient had stopped working or reduced work hours as a result of the opening hours of the treatment centre. A total of 716 patients returned a survey (63% response rate) and 24% (n=174) indicated the items were relevant (e.g. not retired before diagnosis). Of these, 65% were women, average age 55 years (SD=11), 27% were within six months and 35% more than two years post-diagnosis. At the time of recruitment, 60% were employed, 13% retired, 11% disability pensioners, 7% unemployed, 7% home duties or other. Of those participants who indicated the items were relevant, 44% (n=76) reported that they stopped working or reduced work hours as a result of the opening hours of the treatment centre. The majority (74%) reported that extended treatment centre opening hours would allow them to continue to work during cancer treatment. Extending medical oncology opening hours for working cancer patients could potentially allow more patients to work, relieving financial burden, and maintaining social connectedness and identity.

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