Secondary Care

Guy’s and St Thomas’ research highlights SMS supports cancer patients

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust has conducted an online evaluation to understand the preferred and most effective communication options to support its patients with cancer.

Following more than 600 responses, the results show that patients are more likely to highlight concerns and anxieties about their health when contacted by text message than other methods, according to a new paper.

The evaluation explored the concerns of patients after getting a cancer diagnosis, with the results showing patients were twice as likely to say that they felt worried, fearful or anxious about their health, compared to those who did the survey in-person or on the phone with a member of clinical staff.

All patients at the trust who are diagnosed with cancer complete a questionnaire [holistic needs assessment] allowing them to raise any needs or concerns. An electronic holistic needs assessment has recently been introduced, with patients contacted by text message and asked to complete the short questionnaire online in their own time. The trust’s staff then call the patient to talk about their care plan in more detail.

The trust said: “Since April 2020, more than 650 holistic needs assessments were sent to patients by text message, with 80 percent completed by patients across 11 different tumour groups.

“Analysis of the results so far has shown that as part of the new process patients have highlighted greater concerns when completing the questionnaires in their own time, from their own homes. Staff are working with patient groups to understand more about why this is the case.”

The results highlight ‘worry, fear or anxiety’ as the top concern raised by all patients, with more than half (56 percent) of patients completing a text survey raising the issue (scoring it on average 6.5 out of 10). This compares to a quarter (26 percent) of patients who filled in the survey by other means, and with a lower average score of 5.4.

Other notable results the trust highlighted include:

  • Zero complaints were registered in nearly a third (31 percent) of all assessments not offered by text, compared to just 15 percent of those completed by text message
  • Emotional concerns make up an extra 6.7 percent of concerns raised when offered by text message compared to those flagged during a conventional needs assessment
  • Emotional concerns highlighted by text survey were almost twice as likely to be scored between 7-10 compared to those raised during in-person assessments

Nikki Cannon, transformation lead for cancer survivorship at Guy’s and St Thomas’, led the study and presented the preliminary findings at the virtual annual meeting of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer and the International Society of Oral Oncology last month.

Nikki Cannon said: “Delivering personalised care is really important – we need to know what support patients most need after their cancer diagnosis. This is done by a holistic needs assessment.

“When we first introduced the assessment by text, we realised patients were flagging more concerns about their health than those who had in-person assessments. It could be those patients have more time at home to reflect on their answers, and they feel they can be more honest than if they are in a clinic. By continuing to focus on what our patients tell us we are better able to evolve our practice and work with partners to meet those needs.

“The text assessments have been a really useful additional tool for us to support patients, in addition to face-to-face, and it’s something we will continue to offer our patients.”