While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Australians in many ways, for cancer patients the virus has presented a particular set of risks and challenges. To ensure customers living with the disease have access to the best support possible during these times, AIA Australia (AIAA) has expanded the kinds of assistance available through its partnership with CancerAid.

The CancerAid Coach Program, two years on

In October 2018, AIAA became the first life insurer to partner with CancerAid, Australia’s most-used mobile app dedicated to cancer support and management.

CancerAid’s key focus is on behavioural change and participatory health. With research indicating that patients who actively engage with their recovery achieve better health outcomes [1][2], CancerAid combines digital tools with educational resources and personalised coaching to help users better understand their diagnosis, communicate more effectively with their clinicians, reduce the side effects from their treatment and become more actively involved in managing their own care.

After trialing a successful pilot program among some of its cancer claimants, AIAA made the CancerAid Coach Program available for free to all its claimants. Developed by cancer specialists and delivered by health professionals via tele-health, the program provides peer-reviewed, medically reliable information and advice on symptom tracking, diet and nutrition, the importance of participating in physical exercise and getting enough sleep, and techniques for improving mental health.

All AIAA customers with newly-lodged cancer claims are offered the CancerAid Coach Program, with 97.5 per cent of participants reporting that they were either ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with the program.

Cancer and COVID-19

Living with cancer generally makes life difficult in many respects. Even when the diagnosis isn’t life-threatening, cancer patients often have to deal with mental stress, physical discomfort, concerns for the future, and prolonged periods of uncertainty. A cohort needs analysis conducted among CancerAid Coach Program participants found that:

  • 39 per cent reported significant sleep disturbance
  • 43 per cent reported that their day-to-day functioning was affected by symptoms or side effects from their treatment
  • 45 per cent reported challenges in making a successful return to work (reasons include reluctance, inability or lack of confidence).

Due in large part to the increased health risks associated with compromised immune systems, COVID-19 has also led to heightened levels of fear and anxiety for many cancer patients. The same needs analysis found a:

  • 16 per cent relative increase in participants adversely affected by anxiety and fears for the future since the declaration of the pandemic
  • 17 per cent increase in program participation since the pandemic.

How CancerAid is adapting during COVID-19

In response to these new health risks and the impacts pandemic-related anxiety can have on mental health, AIAA and CancerAid recently introduced several joint initiatives to help patients navigate their cancer care and treatment.

Once it had become clear that COVID-19 was likely to cause higher levels of distress for cancer patients, CancerAid developed a COVID-19 ‘module’ that their staff could deliver during calls with customers. Feedback so far has been positive, with conversations lasting on average 29 per cent longer.

To encourage more claimants to both participate in the CancerAid Coach Program and to do so sooner in their journey, AIAA and CancerAid also developed a digitally-enabled self-enrolment flow. AIAA customers who have lodged a claim for a cancer diagnosis within the last 18 months now receive an SMS inviting them to start tracking their symptoms in the CancerAid app, while customers with a new cancer diagnosis will receive this SMS within five days of their claim being received.

Take-up of the app among AIAA customers with cancer is now at 65 per cent, and there has been a 39 per cent increase in the number of patients completing the program.

Finally, there has also been a 53 per cent increase in the number of program participants providing their details to Government-subsidised allied-health support programs*.

Personalised care that stays the course

AIAA’s purpose is to Make a Difference in People’s Lives. By taking a holistic, personalised and considered approach to customer care, AIAA and CancerAid have been empowering cancer patients to regain some control over their lives and actively manage their condition through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond.

In the words of one cancer patient and CancerAid Coach Program participant: “This program has been great, and helped me more than I’d expected. It’s been great to have the conversations – and ultimately the support – and to know that someone cares.”

*Australians diagnosed with cancer can be eligible for the Chronic Disease Management Program, a general practitioner administered (and rebated) service that includes a management plan along with access to five allied health appointments (including dietitian, exercise physiologist, mental health worker, psychologist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist).

ABOUT CANCERAID

CancerAid and AIAA are both signatories to 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 AIAA and CancerAid Cancer Coach Program brings together technology, behavioural psychology, and evidence-based practices with the aim of improving clinical outcomes for patients following their cancer diagnosis.

Copyright © 2020 AIA Australia Limited (ABN 79 004 837 861 AFSL 230043). The information in this article is current at the date of issue and may be subject to change. 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.


[1] Jessica Greene et al. ‘When Patient Activation Levels Change, Health Outcomes and Costs Change, Too’. Health Affairs Vol. 34, No. 3: Variety Issue, 2015.

[2]  Ethan Basch et al. ‘Overall Survival Results of a Trial Assessing Patient-Reported Outcomes for Symptom Monitoring During Routine Cancer Treatment’. jamanetwork.com/journals, 2017.

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