The Initial Health Assessment: an intervention to identify the supportive care needs of cancer patients
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BACKGROUND: The first step in effective supportive care delivery is an assessment of patient needs. The Initial Health Assessment Form (IHA) was developed to aid clinicians in recognition and documentation of a patient's supportive care needs during their first visit to a comprehensive cancer centre. The purpose of this study was to determine the relative effectiveness of this instrument as compared to routine practice. METHODS: A before-after study was performed. Charts of consecutive patients with newly diagnosed cancer attending the Hamilton Regional Cancer Centre were selected randomly. Each chart was reviewed to determine the documentation at the initial patient assessment of 22 supportive care items under eight domains of need: physical, psychological, daily living, social, financial, informational, special needs and personal resources. The pre-intervention evaluation (T1) occurred over a 3-month period followed by the introduction of the IHA into clinical practice. Three months after its introduction, the post-intervention (T2) evaluation took place over the ensuing 3 months. RESULTS: A total of 306 charts were evaluated (153 each in T1 and T2). Patients from the two time periods were comparable with respect to background demographic variables. Introduction of the IHA increased the mean documentation of supportive care needs and resources from 26% in T1 to 49% in T2 ( p=0.001). Significant improvements were found in all domains of need. Despite improvements, documentation of assessment continued to remain low for daily living, social, financial, and informational needs. CONCLUSIONS: The IHA improved documentation of supportive care needs and resources. There is still room for improvement.
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