By 2021, an estimated 57,500 Quebecers will have been diagnosed with cancer, representing 158 new cases a day. This number has been rising for several years, and is expected to increase further in the coming years due to the delays in screening caused by the pandemic.
It has been shown that, in the Quebec healthcare network and across Canada, emotional support is what is most lacking among people touched by cancer (PTC). This shortfall is even greater in the context of a pandemic, where emotional support and accompaniment are expected and hoped for by patients. To meet this need, Peer Assistants (PAs) are integrated into the clinical teams of health and social services establishments. APs are patients, i.e. people who have experience of living with cancer and who have also gained experience in using healthcare services by interacting with healthcare professionals. They use this knowledge to help PTCs (including parents of children with cancer) have a better experience of the disease and their interactions with the healthcare system. By becoming a PA, they transform their experience into a resource available to others, contributing to their own well-being.
The aim of this project is to offer, in 9 Quebec establishments, accompaniment by APs for different types of cancer, to find the best conditions for integrating them into clinical teams, and to evaluate their effects on the experience of PTCs, the health of the population, the efficiency of the healthcare system and the well-being of professionals. In addition, the economic value of integrating APs into care facilities will be assessed from the point of view of the healthcare system. This project will therefore test the AHR model for different sectors (adult and pediatric), different cancer types (prostate, thyroid, gynecological, colorectal, lung, hemato-oncology and breast), different populations (men, women, parents), different contexts (regional and urban) and different structures (CHU, CISSS, CIUSSS). It will collect data on the effects of APs on several levels, and assess the value of their interventions. This project will also help to change the culture of our facilities by encouraging patient involvement at clinical level.
In addition, it will pave the way for the introduction of the PAROLE-Onco Program across Quebec, enabling PTCs to be accompanied by PAs and enhancing their care experience. This new knowledge will enable us to develop strategies for sharing experiences between different establishments, with the support of community groups, and to share them with other Canadian jurisdictions and other countries around the world to implement AHR in their clinical environments.