Aims: This study aimed to examine the health services experience of cancer patients from regional and remote Australia according to the Australian National Cancer Control Indicators (NCCI).
Methods: Participants were cancer patients who travelled for treatment from regional and remote Queensland to major urban centres and were recruited through Cancer Council Queensland’s accommodation lodges. A cross-sectional self-administered questionnaire was used to measure patient experience, quality of life (QoL), psychological distress and unmet supportive care needs. Analyses included the calculation of frequencies and percentages of patient responses, exploratory factor analysis of NCCI items, and a series of correlations between factor scores and psychosocial variables.
Results: A total of 518 cancer patients were recruited with an average age of 64 years. The frequency at which patient experience indicators were met ranged from 37.5% for receiving an assessment and care plan to 97.3% for understanding explanations about diagnosis. Two factors were identified including a ‘communication and patient involvement’ factor that was positively associated with QoL (r = .30, p <.001) and negatively associated with unmet ‘health systems and information’ (r = -.39, p <.001) and ‘patient care’ (r = .35, p <.001) needs, stress (r = -.24, p <.001), and anxiety (r = -.17, p <.001). The second factor of ‘provision of information and services’ showed similar, yet weaker associations with lower levels of unmet ‘health systems and information’ (r = -.32, p <.001) and ‘patient care’ (r = -.23, p <.001) needs. Communication and patient involvement scores varied by cancer type and education level.
Conclusions: The NCCI is a useful and valid tool for assessing the patient experience. The aspect of care that appears most crucial is communication and involvement with the health care team. Strategies to optimize this for regional and remote patients need to be a cancer control priority.