As anyone who’s been personally touched by cancer knows, fighting the disease amounts to much more than a bodily battle. In addition to the physical pain and discomfort generally brought on by surgery, medication and rounds of treatment, cancer takes a psychological toll as well. Even if 68% of those diagnosed with cancer in Australia will survive the disease, 40% of working age patients do not return to work, due largely to such factors as cancer-related fatigue, ‘chemo fog’, depression and anxiety.
“As we get better at treating cancer and the survivorship following a diagnosis improves, it’s imperative we focus on the wellness of our patients” explains Dr Raghav Murali-Ganesh, one of the co-founders of CancerAid, Australia’s most-used app dedicated to cancer support and management. “The program we have developed is based on the concept of participatory health. We empower patients and caregivers to make behavioural changes that will drive improved clinical outcomes and help give them back some control over their condition.”
Putting the program to the test
In October 2018, AIA Australia, impressed by the work CancerAid was doing and encouraged by research linking higher levels of patient engagement with improved health outcomes, became the first life insurer to partner with CancerAid on developing a pilot program for its claimants that included the CancerAid app.
Made up of 50 participants, the program educated those living with cancer on how to better manage their care and more easily communicate with their clinicians. The program was broken down into modules on symptom tracking, the importance of activity and exercise, diet and nutrition advice, sleep tips, and techniques to improve mental health. Promisingly, completion of the pilot revealed a 39 per cent improvement in the number of patients actively managing their health by tracking their symptoms in the app.
The next step in cancer recovery
More recently, AIA Australia has made CancerAid’s new six-week coaching program available to all group insurance claimants.
Developed by cancer specialists and delivered by health professionals via tele-health, the CancerAid Health Coach program combines a digital and personalised approach to cancer management.
The program was developed to tie in with the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia’s recent recommendations that cancer patients engage in some tailored physical exercise as part of their recovery.
As part of AIA Australia’s commitment to helping make a difference in people’s lives, access to the program is offered as soon as the claim is lodged. “We recognise better health outcomes can be achieved if we offer services early” explains Stephanie Phillips, AIA Australia’s Chief Group Insurance Officer. “We even had claimants who started the CancerAid Health Coach Program before they commenced their chemotherapy and radiotherapy.”
For the many thousands of Australians diagnosed with cancer each year, the weeks, months or even years following their diagnosis are likely to be some of the most challenging and confronting of their lives. Knowing that there’s a resource of support close at hand, specifically designed to help break down what’s happening and take back an element of control, can make the prospect of returning to work and wellbeing feel a little more achievable.
“After my cancer diagnosis, the CancerAid program was extremely attractive because I felt empowered and in control to face cancer and I could look at the information from home.”
– CancerAid Program participant
CancerAid is a signatory to both the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM) and the Health Benefits of Good Work Charter by the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP). This charter aims to promote the benefits of good work on people’s health and wellbeing. The joint CancerAid and AIA program brings together technology, behavioural psychology, and evidence-based practices in the aim of improving clinical outcomes for patients following a cancer diagnosis.
Copyright © 2019 AIA Australia Limited (ABN 79 004 837 861 AFSL 230043). This is general information only, without taking into account factors like the objectives, financial situation, needs or personal circumstances of any individual and is not intended to be financial, legal, tax, medical, nutritional, health, fitness or other advice.
 Greene et al 2015, Basch et al 2017