VCH launches pilot program to improve healthcare journey of lung cancer patients

VANCOUVER Coastal Health (VCH) has launched Lung Evaluation and Assessment Program (LEAP) to improve the healthcare journeys of people diagnosed with lung cancer. LEAP, which will initially run as a two-year pilot at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), will employ a nurse navigator – a clinician with cancer care expertise – to support patients, families and caregivers through the treatment process.

Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of death in Canada. In 2021 alone, BC Cancer projects over 3,800 British Columbians were newly diagnosed with this cancer type.

“Receiving a lung cancer diagnosis is both an overwhelming and emotionally charged experience for many. Navigating their treatment pathway can be challenging, particularly during the past two year’s of the pandemic. By engaging a nurse navigator to support patients and their families, we have the potential to positively transform this experience for those receiving care,” said Dr. John Yee, Head of Thoracic Surgery at VCH’s VGH and UBC Hospital.

“This patient-centred approach addresses the practical aspects of cancer care, such as efficient scheduling of diagnostic and surgical procedures, but also the many complex psychosocial impacts of a lung cancer diagnosis. Over two years, we will closely evaluate wait times, length of hospital stays, re-admission rates and indicators of patient wellbeing, to identify learnings to improve other cancer programs in our region.”

Earlier screening coupled with surgical intervention has the potential to save the lives of many people diagnosed with this cancer. During 2020, 324 patients underwent thoracic surgery at VGH for suspected or confirmed lung cancer. While there is a prospective surgical cure for people with early-stage lung cancer, many patients only receive treatment when the disease has advanced. This results in poorer outcomes and more complicated treatment.

“This project recognizes the toll a cancer diagnosis takes on patients and families, and partners them with support,” said Heath Minister Adrian Dix. “Better treatment outcomes and a recovery journey are the goal of the new LEAP project, where a nurse navigator is there every step of the way. You’re not in this alone—you have someone in health care to help.”

Previous studies have shown a nurse navigator provides a wide range of patient care benefits, including addressing psychosocial concerns and ensuring timely access to clinical and diagnostic services. Research has also shown this role reduces healthcare costs by decreasing hospital re-admission rates following surgery.

“Nurse navigators put patients at the forefront, ensuring they retain control and empowering them to make informed decisions. B.C. Cancer is proud to have contributed to the early stage of this pilot and we look forward to learning from the findings and furthering our work, in partnership with health authorities across the province, to deliver patient-centred cancer care,” said Heather Findlay, Chief Operating Officer, B.C. Cancer.

The project was made possible as a result of a $1-million gift from Della and Stuart McLaughlin to VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation.

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