Friday 30th September 2016
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Autumn 2016
This section presents some key data around internet use. It also examines how professionals signpost those they support to online information, using financial support as an example, and suggests how barriers to signposting might be overcome.
General online access and usage
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that in Great Britain in 2015:
ONS data suggests that at the start of 2015 (January to March) the internet had been used recently by:
- 99% of adults aged 16 to 24
- 71% of adults aged 64 to 74
- 33% of adults aged 75 or above
Age UK says it believes that ‘older people should be encouraged and supported to access the internet, but that those who do not want to should continue to be able to access services and support that suits them’.
Some older users may find tablets more intuitive and user friendly than desktop or laptop computers. Research from Ofcom suggests that rising use of tablet computers is driving an increase in the number of older people going online.
Despite barriers to accessing the internet for some older people, evidence suggests those who do go online see benefits from doing so. The Pew Research Centre in America found that 79% of adults aged 65 or above who used the internet agreed with the statement that ‘people without internet access are at a real disadvantage because of all the information they might be missing,’ while 94% agreed with the statement that ‘the internet makes it much easier to find information today than in the past.’
Levels of signposting among health and social care professionals
Macmillan has a wealth of reviewed, accredited and user friendly information on understanding, diagnosing, treating and coping with all cancer types. Alongside this, we provide a wide range of information, online and in booklet form, about organising and managing the practicalities of going through cancer – from money worries to working issues to travel and more.
A key to helping people affected by cancer get the most from this information is signposting them to it as a start.
Research conducted by GfK on behalf of Macmillan draws conclusions on the level of signposting by health and social care professionals. While the majority (90%) of professionals surveyed claim to signpost people affected by cancer, the frequency
Case study: signposting to online financial information
We asked Chris Jones, a Macmillan welfare rights adviser, why he thought professionals tend not to signpost people in their care to
online financial support in particular:
‘I don’t think people are aware of the full range of online financial support available. There might be an assumption that important information like this has to be provided in person but actually online financial support can really empower people and allow them to make informed choices about their financial situation.’
If we take a closer look at signposting specifically to Macmillan resources we find 8 in 10 professionals recommend Macmillan’s website and two-thirds signpost to other Macmillan services, such as the support line. The research found that while our website is highly referred to, services that are more specific are less used, as they tend to be less well known.
Specialist cancer nurses carry out signposting most frequently (2.4 times a week). GPs and other generalist roles tend to signpost the least often (GPs, 0.7 times a week). This is likely due to time pressures and high patient caseload meaning less time spent with each patient. Specialist cancer roles, however, spend more time on average with patients and have a broader knowledge of the specific support and information available.
Barriers to signposting
When we asked professionals what they see as the barriers to signposting patients to additional information and support, the main reason was that:
A majority of professionals (62%) feel financial information is best offered by someone else, which could indicate a lack of understanding
or knowledge of the financial support available to people affected by cancer. Macmillan is in a good position to place itself as a comprehensive and authoritative source of financial information and support. That said, professionals in a Macmillan post are already more inclined to refer patients towards our financial support than to other charities.
There is often a stigma around accessing benefits and support which can be seen as a barrier to signposting patients. It’s not something that generally comes up in a consultation with a GP or oncologist which is why specialist cancer nurses are often the first to address financial worries. Which underscores the value of a tool such as the electronic Holistic Needs Assessment (eHNA): an iPad or tablet survey tool that allows professionals to capture the range of concerns patients have, early in their cancer journey, so that a holistic care plan can be created and specific worries such as money can be anticipated and information support provided.
As part of the Recovery Package eHNAs are carried out with patients at various points through their cancer journey. This assessment aims to address a person’s key issues and concerns at that time. It is often at this point financial worries are highlighted to the nurse or key worker who can then signpost to support.
The type of support depends on each individual but often a combination of online and in-person information is best.
Combining digital and other support
There are many different challenges to people accessing online support, specifically financial support. These vary from little knowledge of the information available, to lacking the IT skills or equipment to access the support. Although 5.4 million people accessed our online information and support in 2015 (an 8% increase on 2014), there is still more we can do to ensure people get the right mix of support at the right times.
Chris Jones says: ‘Some people may not feel confident about following online information or advice and may want to run through things with a benefit adviser or financial guide for example.
‘Our support line can then complement the online information and people can email us asking for a call back to discuss further.’
This combination of online support and the availability of an actual person to contact about concerns and worries is a strong approach. We know around 66% of professionals have recommended the Macmillan Support Line to patients. Through the support line people can speak to our benefits and welfare advisers who are able to supplement and signpost to our online resources.
Chris says: ‘The comprehensive instant information available online should definitely be encouraged. Some people may feel more comfortable with accessing online financial support rather than calling someone and discussing personal details, and this can be encouraged by professionals by signposting them to appropriate online channels.'
Email Bryony Ashcroft - Digital Editor – Services and Professionals, Macmillan Cancer Support.