Friday 30th September 2016
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Autumn 2016
Debbie Provan, National Allied Health Professional (AHP) Lead for Cancer Rehabilitation and Macmillan TCAT Project Manager, explains how she uses digital channels to both support people affected by cancer, and for professional development
How do you think signposting people affected by cancer to digital channels can help them?
It’s another information source that’s quick and easy, and in theory should be up to date. It really increases the readiness and availability of information for patients.
How do you and your colleagues let people affected by cancer know what’s available?
At the moment I’m involved in one of the TCAT (Transforming Care After Treatment) projects in Scotland. The aim is to embed the holistic needs assessment within care planning into the pathway, to empower people and promote self-management. We have developed a Supportive Care Directory, which is a list of places people can go for support and information, whatever issue they raise through the holistic needs assessment. Most of the resources are online but we also have Macmillan booklets and the Macmillan Support Line number in the Directory.
A couple of years ago Macmillan gave us some funding to integrate the work we had been doing locally with Ayrshire Cancer Support and the local Macmillan Cancer Information Support Service. Together they formed a website called Ayrshire Cancer Network. This is a platform which signposts local support groups and other sources of information and support for people with a cancer diagnosis.
Does social media have a role to play?
We tend to signpost patients to websites mostly, but indirectly people might end up on social media. If they use the Macmillan website, for example, it’s got the support community on there and they also advertise things like Twitter chats and Facebook groups.
Locally my experience is that health boards tend to be quite strict on regulation, in terms of what information we put on social media. So we might promote things through our communications department who have a Twitter account and a Facebook account, rather than having our own accounts for local services.
Professionally I use social media a lot, but I think it’s important to emphasise the importance of people keeping themselves right from a professional point of view.
That could be through getting advice about social media from their professional body or from their local communications department.
But people certainly shouldn’t be put off, because I definitely think there are more pros than cons to using social media.
Are there any success stories you’ve seen, where a patient has found a digital source of information particularly helpful?
Through my national role (which is part Macmillan funded and part Scottish Government funded) I spoke to a cancer physiotherapist in Dundee who had a patient come to her through a website they had seen promoted on Twitter. That individual had been really struggling to find information and support, but thanks to digital signposting they found what they needed, and ended up seeing a specialist cancer physiotherapist.
How useful do you find digital channels for connecting with other professionals?
They’re hugely beneficial. I use them all the time, particularly within my national role. I use Twitter, and there are some good conversations happening on LinkedIn, so I use this a bit more from a dietetic point of view. I’ve managed to reach out and find out a lot about different services that are out there. Through my national role I also facilitate a blog called AHP Scot Blog, a professional blog for AHPs in Scotland supported by the Chief Health Professions Officer. It’s a really good way of showcasing work to a wide audience. Without such a forum individual AHPs would never be able to reach that audience so quickly and easily, so it’s a great way of reaching out and making connections.
There are lots of people I’ve had conversations with and collaborated with as a result of social media connections, despite never having met them in real life, so it’s been really beneficial for me.
Are there any professional successes you’ve had as a result of digital communication?
My connection with Mandy Trickett came about through Twitter. We’ve formed a good professional relationship, and I became her mentor while she was going through a fellowship programme focusing on developing cancer rehabilitation within her local hospice. We’ve been able to collaborate on quite a few things since then.
I also organised an event earlier this year, funded by Macmillan, to bring AHPs working in cancer and cancer rehab services across Scotland together. The event was largely advertised through social media. Some people came along because they had heard about it through Twitter, and they then joined the community of practice. Again, that kind of communication enables us to exchange more information, update current practice and share resources.
National AHP Lead for Cancer Rehabilitation and TCAT Project Manager
Continue reading this issue of Sharing Good Practice
How digital services can help you and those you support
Online support at different steps
Case study - Mandy Trickett
Digital support - Further reading