Three staff at Chemo Daycare
At Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, (L to R) Ian Brandle, Project Coordinator, Systemic Therapy Unit, Kaitlin Azubuike, Patient Relations Advisor, and Marina Kaufman, Manager of Systemic Therapy, are among those working with UHN Patient Partners to improve the patient experience. (Photo: UHN)

Danelle Smith knows her way around the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

After all, she's been a patient since 2013 in the Systemic Therapy Unit, where drug therapy treatments include chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and immunotherapy.

So, when unit leadership was looking for patients to discuss their personal experience and how it could be improved, particularly when it came to delayed treatments and wait times in clinic, Danelle was an obvious choice to offer an opinion. She and two other UHN Patient Partners were part of a focus group.

"We know the wait for treatment is unavoidable," says Danelle, referring to the approximately 200 patients who come to the cancer centre for systemic therapy daily, each requiring delivery of a unique treatment protocol safely and efficiently from a care team which includes physicians, staff in clinics, pharmacy, laboratory medicine, and "chemo daycare," as the area where drugs are infused is known.

"But it would be really helpful to know why the wait and how long."

April 21 to 27 is Patient Experience Week, a time to celebrate the impact TeamUHN members have daily in improving the experience of patients as well as the lessons learned from patients and families.

Across UHN, a Patient Partner is on every Quality of Care Committee.

At the Princess Margaret, one of the key things gleaned from the Systemic Therapy Unit focus group with Patient Partners, as well as the patients who have reached out to Patient Relations in the past about delays and long wait times, is that they are often unaware of the complexity of their treatment.

The team in the unit is looking at running videos explaining the process of systemic therapy treatment on a loop that could be played on the television in the waiting room. There are also plans for better signage and more overall transparency about expected wait times patients will face.

"These are things patients are telling us we can do to help them feel better informed and more empowered during one of the most stressful times of their life," says Marina Kaufman, Unit Manager.

Danelle says she and other patients recognize "all the hard work" being done by staff in the unit to keep the wait times down. And, she says, the number of people and steps involved in the delivery of each treatment for each patient means there are inevitably going to be some delays.

Danelle Smith
UHN Patient Partner Danelle Smith. (Photo: Courtesy Danelle Smith)

"But the solutions have to come from everyone involved," she says. "This includes everyone from the patient being educated about what their responsibilities are and what to expect in clinic, right through to timely orders for drugs so that they can be prepared and ready for the patient's appointment time.

"It's important work that requires engagement from all. A lot can be learned from patients and families about improving the experience of patients who come to UHN."

Throughout Patient Experience Week, we will be collecting and sharing comments both from staff on what they've learned from patients and families, and asking patients to share what they want staff to know. Comments can be submitted online [Editor's Note: Survey is closed], or in-person at one of our Patient Learning Centres.

Follow @UHNPatientExp for more ways to participate, and to join the conversation.

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