As MPCCC’s pilot of shared-care for cancer related depression approaches completion, participants will be invited to evaluate the feasibility of the model and its potential to provide effective and efficient supportive care for cancer patients, in the community.

Shared care is a team-driven approach, in which multidisciplinary healthcare professionals work together to maximise the care of individual patients.

The MPCCC’s pilot implementation project commenced in August 2017 with funding from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, and has involved three MPCCC hospital sites including Cabrini Health (Brighton); Monash Cancer Centre, Monash Health (Moorabbin); and Peninsula Health (Frankston).

Twenty-two cancer patients with clinically diagnosed depression have agreed to take part in the study.

“The participating patients represent various age groups, stages of cancer and severity of depression”, said Professor David Kissane, Head of Psychiatry at Monash University and Chief Investigator for the project.

Patients are offered between six to eight sessions with community psychologists who are training in therapies for managing cancer-related depression. Twelve community-based psychologists have been specialty trained to participate in the pilot.

“Patients’ progress and the quality of the care they receive is carefully measured and monitored,” said Ms Genevieve Murphy, Clinical Nurse Coordinator for the project.

“Each session is recorded and reviewed to ensure adherence with study protocol, and psychologists receive regular feedback and support in the form of supervision meetings,” Ms Murphy said.

“The psychologists have found the experience of working with cancer patients enriching, and enjoy the supportive peer-feedback process”, said Professor Kissane, who is also one of the three supervisors involved.

The program also links with patient’s General Practitioners (GP’s), providing guidelines for the prescription of anti-depressants and ensuring GP’s are kept up to date with the progress of their patients. Seventeen GPs have been involved.

“We have all been working together to provide a co-ordinated system of care, evaluating the effectiveness of therapy sessions and liaising with GPs, who are a patient’s most regular point of contact,” Ms Murphy said.

To date the program appears to have had a positive impact on patients’ health; seventeen of the twenty-two patients involved in the study have recorded an overall reduction in their Patient Health Questionnaire baseline score for depression.

The final phase of this project will involve qualitative interviews with all participants and quantitative evaluation of patient data. It will also assess the feasibility of this shared-care model on a larger scale.

“We are optimistic about the feasibility of this model based on the insights we have gleaned so far,” said Professor Kissane.

“We hope to demonstrate with conclusive data that a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to psycho-oncology can have hugely positive impact on a patient’s quality of life.”

The evaluation of this study may also reveal opportunities for piloting shared care models that address other patient needs during cancer treatment.