Scholarship student explores response to WDHB cancer information booklets

23 February 2016

Caption: Fifth-year medical student Hoani MacFater
Personalised information booklets published for patients with colorectal, melanoma and breast cancers have been welcomed by those receiving them, says fifth-year medical student Hoani MacFater.
Mr MacFater recently completed a 10-week research project for the Whanganui District Health Board’s (WDHB) Surgical Services team, who designed and published the 8-page booklets last year. Funded by a Ministry of Health grant, the project aimed to follow up the impact the booklets have had on patient recall and satisfaction.
Patients spoken to have told Mr MacFater that besides finding the distinctive covers easy to spot, they appreciate the level of detail they’re given about their cancer diagnosis, the operation performed, their post-operative treatment and answers to many questions they, their family members and their GPs might have.
“The response I’ve had from patients has been very positive,” Mr MacFater says. “As soon as I mention the booklets with the green foliage on the front of them, they know what I mean and they’re happy to talk about how useful the booklet has been.
“From the start, the booklets were designed to improve the follow-up process for WDHB cancer patients. Aware that patients don’t always remember what’s said to them in a clinic, the WDHB’s Surgical Services team wanted to find a way to improve communication and put the focus on the patient and their needs. Making patient input an important part of the design process appears to have really paid off.
“Besides giving people ownership of their information, the booklets also provide them with the tools to help identify if they have a problem that could need to be reviewed further.”
Feedback from the patients and groups including the Cancer Society, the WDHB’s Maori Health Services, the Cancer Psychology Service and DHB staff will now help the Surgical Services team produce a second, updated version of the booklets. Over time, additional booklets may be published for patients with other types of cancer.
The results gathered by Mr MacFater are to be submitted for publication in a medical journal and presented at a surgical conference.
It’s believed that Mr MacFater could be the first student to undertake a summer research scholarship in the WDHB’s General Surgical Department.
While research scholarships are common at university hospitals such as Auckland, they are rarely offered at a regional hospital. Mr MacFater is pleased to have had the opportunity to research a subject that’s having a benefit to people living in the WDHB district.