Pharmacy times interviewed Sarah Wheeler, PharmD, BCOP, clinical pharmacy specialist in hematology/oncology at UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital, during her session at the Hematology/Oncology Pharmacy Association 2022 annual conference session entitled, “And The Title We Didn’t Train for: Navigating the Balance between informal caregiver AND oncology pharmacist.’
In this discussion, Wheeler discusses some of the barriers patients with cancer may face after their diagnosis and the role of healthcare providers in helping patients manage these barriers as they arise.
Sarah Wieler: I think there are many barriers that patients face when they are diagnosed with cancer, and many different ways that caregivers can be very helpful in navigating those barriers.
Whenever someone is diagnosed with cancer, it becomes a whole whirlwind that you get caught up in, and you feel like your identity is being left behind. There’s an appointment-to-appointment shuffling feature, and I think one way that caregivers can be helpful at times is by keeping calendars – keeping appointments can be helpful because there are many – and aligning them all to help the person who does have cancer, who can’t always think clearly, think about which days will be best, try to coordinate the appointments together so that they are clustered instead of having to come to the clinic every day, where you might do a few of them in one day – that can be helpful.
Other ways caregivers can help navigate things are other barriers — sometimes making appointments first or getting documentation to help you get the appointment. So let’s say you were diagnosed in one place, would like a referral to another place – health care providers can call and make sure all paperwork is sent and the other places have received it and can keep track of how you are trying to help to make those arrangements.
Other things they can do is keep up the logistics of things the cancer patient may not be able to do. So, when the symptoms start, help them be a historian about what has happened in their care so far so that they can go to the appointments and say, ‘Hey, Here’s What Happened So Far, Here’s The Symptoms That Happened, Here’s What I’ve Noticed, And Here’s What They Noticed,’ and help the caregivers get a really good idea of everything that’s happened so far and how the patients felt as well as the tests and other things that have been done. Any biopsy results, anything like that, so they can help get through that sort of thing.
Often caregivers can simply help take the burden off the patient so that the patient can be the patient. And then the healthcare provider does a lot of the logistics behind the scenes, [such as] call pharmacies to have medicines refilled or [checking] when they are done. Assisting in getting co-paid help because drugs are expensive – that’s sometimes a big barrier, the cost of drugs. Having paperwork completed for co-pay aid can be helpful or if grant is needed, that can help from that point of view. Help coordinate with the office if a pre-approval is required for medication – there are many barriers unfortunately. So healthcare providers can often just help navigate those logistics for the patient so they can just focus on their health.