A patient advocate is someone who works on behalf of patients and their families during hospital stays or through other medical situations. Quite often the patients they help have something in common, such as cancer or another medical condition. Advocates work with different types of healthcare providers, such as physicians from different specialties, nursing and support staff and all members of the cancer care team.
In addition to the above, the cancer registrar serves our communities through the collection, coding and classification of accurate and complete data. This is done through the usual registry operations: casefinding, abstracting, follow-up, statistical analysis, quality control, reporting and more.
Today many cancer registrars are challenged by the same economics that is driving many organizations to reduce expenses and programs. Essentially the data collection requirements are increasing, while the organizational support is decreasing. This puts the cancer registrar into the difficult position of having to adjust how they do their work on a day-to-day basis. It can be frustrating because the role of being the advocate is always “near and dear” to the heart of the registrar.
The best solution is for cancer registrars to adopt a new mindset and philosophy about how they carry out their daily work. It is not reasonable to expect the organization to simply continue to provide new staff to do the work. Instead, the registrar must be open to doing their work differently and creatively.
Understanding how the cancer registry data management system and software is designed may also be of benefit. In addition, creating a quality control plan for abstracting so that data is gathered completely, accurately and documents all the required standards and best practice at the time of the first abstract is critical. Follow-up must be given the same importance and consideration as the rest of the registry processes. Casefinding must be done completely and thoroughly and encompass all avenues of patient entry into the hospital system, not performed solely on pathology reports.
As we continue to fast-forward into personalized medicine and with emerging science the cancer registrar will be required to think fast, adapt and flex to the needs of their organization. Through networking and by being self-motivated to expand their professional development and critical thinking skills the cancer registrar will be able to meet the demands in the future and remain as a steadfast patient advocate.