Finding time for appointments with a mental health specialist can be difficult for cancer patients

In an interview with Pharmacy hours, Bruce Feinberg, DO, spoke about the importance of mental health in treating cancer patients. Although treating mental health symptoms is essential, finding the time and energy for more appointments can be difficult for these patients.

Q: Does mental health treatment differ in the community setting compared to the hospital setting?

Bruce Feinberg, DO: So, for the most part, cancer treatment is outpatient, and so the notion of hospital is often translated into academic center rather than community practice. But the reality is that it’s the same thing. It is a highly fragmented ambulatory care delivery system, in which multiple practitioners are involved in the care of that patient. And there is often a saturation point where patients can afford in time or money to see one more doctor, and disease management doctors still occupy the higher rungs of the ladder in terms of priority. . And so if there’s a medical oncologist, a surgical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, and maybe a specialist managing a particular aspect of the patient’s health, often that patient is saturated. And so it’s very difficult to add one more visit to a doctor with one more copayment into the mix, and training and getting these patients referred in a timely manner, which, again, comes back to this notion of almost pre-planning. Don’t wait because there are so many obstacles. Try to see if you integrate it early. And in our research, what we’ve seen is that almost half of the physicians we’ve surveyed have brought psychologists and social workers into the care team for exactly that reason, so they can be proactively engaged.

Q: What role do pharmacists play in mental health care for cancer patients?

Bruce Feinberg, DO: Thus, pharmacists could play a role. The question is: do they play a role? Currently, we see that in more and more university establishments, pharmacists are part of the care team. I think this is much less the case when it comes to community practice. They bring a skill set in terms of drug and disease knowledge and certainly if there’s a drug intervention that’s considered beneficial — antidepressant, anxiolytic — I think they can play a role. But I think deep down, they’re people who are trained professionals in their profession, to deal with mental health issues and, at a minimum, social workers who can help guide patients through crises. and also navigate the care they need and where they can possibly get it. And to a greater extent, if we can actually involve psychologists in the mix.

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