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17-09-2017 | Supportive care | Article

Integrating referral to community-based cancer information and support services in a hospital setting

Supportive Care in Cancer

Authors: David J. T. Marco, Anna G. Boltong, Adrian Dabscheck, Georgina Akers, Michelle Pryce, Victoria M. White

Publisher: Springer Berlin Heidelberg



To implement and evaluate a hospital-based referral mechanism to increase patient uptake of community-based cancer information and support services. Feasibility and acceptability of the intervention and education program was evaluated. Changes in usage of Cancer Council Victoria’s cancer information and support telephone line were investigated.


A 6-month study was conducted in one metropolitan and one regional cancer treatment hospital. Clinicians attended an education session regarding referral mechanisms to Cancer Council support services. Clinicians completed a questionnaire, and consenting patients participated in a semi-structured telephone interview for the project evaluation. The number of calls made from patients at study sites was monitored.


Fifty-two clinicians were trained and referred a total of 430 patients to the cancer information and support service during the study period. Calls from patients increased by up to 100% per month from baseline following the implementation of the referral mechanism. Staff evaluations showed support for the referral mechanism and its incorporation into routine practice. Interviews were conducted with 45 patients; most remembered receiving the referral and were positive towards the intervention. Common reasons patients gave for not acting on the referral included forgetting, lack of need, timing and burden of information.


There is preliminary evidence that this intervention increases awareness and uptake of community-based cancer information and support services. Ongoing clinician education and improvements in patient-clinician communication are important for effective translation from referral to service uptake. Consideration of the most appropriate time in a patients’ care trajectory to introduce a referral is warranted.

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