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Managing the unmet psychosocial and information needs of patients with cancer
Kathleen Abrahamson1, Morgan Durham1, Rebekah Fox2
1Department of Public Health, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY, USA; 2Department of Communication, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, USA
Abstract: In this article, we synthesize current literature regarding the unmet needs of cancer patients, with a specific focus on interventions that address psychosocial distress, social support, and information deficits. Research indicates many patients diagnosed with cancer express unmet needs in terms of emotional distress, decision-making support, and practical concerns such as childcare, transportation, and financial assistance. Four types of system-level barriers to the meeting of patient psychosocial and information-based needs emerge from the literature: underidentification of needs due to inadequate assessment, time constraints on cancer care providers, lack of adequate reimbursement for psychosocial and information services, and barriers related to communication of disease-related information. There is also evidence that unmet need, especially unmet information need, is related to the level of patient health literacy. Patient empowerment through the resolution of unmet needs increases patient participation in care, and is especially crucial in regards to understanding risks and benefits of treatment. There is evidence that some interventions are effective for some patients, and that even relatively simple interventions can reduce psychosocial and information-based needs. The challenge is therefore to discover which intervention will be effective for each individual patient, and to attain the skills and resources necessary to intervene appropriately.
Keywords: cancer, unmet need, health literacy, intervention
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