Supporting communities

Provide practical supports and on-going communications to people receiving care, to address individual needs with respect to cancer screening during and after the pandemic.

Recommendation 1: Partner with members of the multidisciplinary team, subject matter experts, community partners, and members of the public to plan screening services during pandemic.

Key evidence and implementation considerations

  • Identify barriers and facilitators to implementing the plan.
    • Where barriers exist, efforts are made in collaboration with partners and stakeholders to ask why and collectively work towards solutions. For example, learnings from screening participants and their families past experiences and where they see future risks to their safety can help address public fear and identify ways to reassure the public of precautions taken to ensure their safety when visiting healthcare settings, including primary care and labs.
  • Document and communicate the plan.
    • Proactively review and continuously update the plan.
  • Ensure the plan is easily accessible to staff, partners and stakeholders.
  • Patient and Family Advisors suggest that plans should consider psychosocial (e.g. family/caregiver support at appointments) and practical (e.g., transportation to screening sites) needs to enable participation in screening.

Recommendation 2: Build greater cancer awareness of the importance of cancer screening within communities.

Key evidence and implementation considerations

  • Design and deliver education sessions and materials with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis populations with specific priorities to ensure results are meaningful and relevant.
  • Patient and Family Advisors suggest developing a strategy for communicating screening services to the public.
    • It is important to ensure screening results are communicated to patients as they now have fewer interactions with the healthcare system and may fall between the cracks.
  • Patient and Family Advisors note the importance of providing assurance that individuals will receive care should they have an abnormal result, while being realistic about expected backlogs.
    • Create key messaging around safety and importance of screening using plain language.
    • Communicate information about backlogs and share that recommendations can change over time in response to the current situation.
    • Explain risks in context of competing risks (e.g. the risks associated with missing cancer screening, as opposed to the risk of contracting COVID-19).
  • Messaging about what can be expected in screening should be stated using real terms that honestly and transparently communicate the plan for the individual and what role the participant plays in their care.
  • Use visual aids such as posters and reminders to aid in communicating with the public.
  • Awareness activities are planned and implemented.

Recommendation 3: Partner with screening participants and families as core members of the healthcare team to enable a person-centred approach to care.

Key evidence and implementation considerations

  • Support and engage screening participants and families in making informed decisions about their health.
    • Enabling screening participants to make informed contribution to care and treatment decisions can ensure health services are provided in a holistic, dignified, and respectful manner.
  • Ensure screening participants have the information they need to contribute to decision making.
    • Establish practices to support communications to participants that are clear and help manage expectations regarding key potential concerns such as delays accessing services and the impact of delays or reduced access to screening on outcomes.
    • Make it clear that screening test results and gathered information are owned by the screening participant.
  • Provide materials (e.g., patient education handouts, online resources, etc.) written in simple language and in the screening participant’s language of choice, with specific consideration for variation in health literacy.
  • Engage screening participants in their own care -involve participants and families in planning and improving their health care.
  • Patient and Family Advisors suggest mechanisms are needed to allow families/caregivers to accompany screening participants to their appointments.
  • Where it is not possible for family/caregivers to accompany screening participants, mechanisms should be explored to create virtual mechanisms for family/caregiver support.

Recommendation 4: Create a culture where feedback from screening participants, families, public is sought out every day.

Key evidence and implementation considerations

  • Ensure structures are in place to support daily dialogue and conversation with participants and families about care (e.g. safety huddles).
    • Normalize and encourage participants and families to speak up and raise concerns (e.g. encourage screening participants to articulate anxiety and mental health concerns and offer supportive care and counselling to address their concerns).
    • Take a collaborative approach to explore and act on concerns raised.
  • Co-design point of care policies and procedures with participants and families (e.g. family presence policy, patient handovers, etc.).
  • Involve screening participants and families at an organizational level (co-design services with patient, community and public partners, establish patient, community and public advisory councils etc.).
  • By making imaging, laboratory results and clinical notes available online, screening participants can be empowered to better understand their treatment plan, clarify with their care team when needed, and identify errors in their medical records should they exist.

Learn more

For more information and references, download the guidance document Management of Cancer Screening Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Building Resilient, Safer & Equitable Screening Services.

COVID-19 resources are available to support and optimize screening restoration.