“How do we address the individual needs of our patients and assure a positive experience for each and every patient? And how do we help the patient successfully navigate the existential crisis engendered by the new diagnosis of head and neck cancer?”
Asking and answering these questions provides the environment to achieve success in a patient-centric universe, said Dennis H. Kraus, MD, director of the Center for Head and Neck Oncology, the New York Head and Neck Institute, and Northwell Health Cancer Institute in New York City in a presidential address he gave to the American Head and Neck Society (JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2016;142:1231–1232).
Dr. Kraus highlighted the need for head and neck surgeons and the entire care team to be empathetic with their patients and the myriad challenges they face in making treatment decisions, an important component of which includes the quality of survivorship.
“The patient’s perception of their care is created by the quality of the care, outcome of their treatment, the interaction and empathy displayed by the physician and healthcare team, and to a large degree, the patient’s world view,” he said.
- understanding the diagnosis of cancer;
- treatment planning;
- communication with the healthcare team;
- financial and insurance issues;
- symptoms, side effects, and quality of life; and
He added that responses from patients with cancer who took the survey showed that many challenges remain in meeting these needs. For example, the survey found that fewer than 20% of patients said the healthcare team addressed their end-of-life concerns, and only 70% to 90% of patients report understanding their conversations with the care team.
Emphasizing the need to place the patient at the center of care to deliver the highest quality of care, Dr. Kraus encouraged head and neck surgeons to collaborate with all members of the health team and “be kind and compassionate to your patients, help them to understand their disease, assist them in making treatment choices and return them to the best quality of life you are able.”