I Will Strive to Achieve Better Care for Cancer Patients - Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite

28 January 2020

I Will Strive to Achieve Better Care for Cancer Patients

Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite

Who are you and what do you do?

I’m a health services and systems researcher with an interest in the way care is delivered to patients, and how to make improvements. As Founding Director of the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Director of the Centre for Healthcare Resilience and Implementation Science and Professor of Health Systems Research at Macquarie University, I have spent many years working with hundreds of researchers, policymakers, managers, clinicians and patients. I’m in the fortunate position of making new discoveries to shape the health care system as we know it.

A lot of my work touches on cancer care and the systems that underpin the patient experience. One key project is an investigation into multidisciplinary cancer care in outpatient clinics. Here I am interested in how this model of care affects clinical decision making, supports patients’ needs, and enables – or prevents – the delivery of quality care. The answer? Multidisciplinary teams can make for very good decisions, but they can take up lots of clinical time. We always need to make sure we run streamlined systems of care, and don’t burden clinicians unnecessarily.

Another area I’m really interested in is the type of information that patients need in order to manage their cancer risk, treatment and prognosis. One study focused on women who were undergoing genetic investigation for breast cancer as well as those who had already been diagnosed with the disease. It helped us to understand what women need to know – as well as how that information should be delivered and who should deliver it – in order to make sense of and manage their ongoing risk. Another study looked at the link between how satisfied patients were with their care and the various points at which critical health information was delivered to them along their cancer journey. Patients typically value the cancer care they receive, but we often need to remember to look after all their needs including their hopes, fears, and social challenges – and to give them good, timely information where and when they need it.

What is your motivation?

Since I was young, I’ve been interested in the greater good and people’s wellbeing. I know this sounds naive! As I always say to my early career researchers, it’s an absolute privilege doing what we do. We have the opportunity to read the work of other researchers in the world, think up new ideas, design fresh research projects and uncover new evidence or help people translate that evidence into practice for the benefit of millions of patients.

If you take the whole of humanity across history, a very, very tiny proportion of people had that level of freedom, privilege and opportunity. I sometimes say to my teams at the institute that in past eras, no one had the capacity to search a database with 30 million papers from other smart people – and that’s only one database, PubMed. So all in all, it’s a great time to do research to support translating evidence into practice to make life better for patients, and better for clinicians. What work is more satisfying? It’s hard to imagine.

What will you do this World Cancer Day?

I will continue to support my teams of researchers and strive to achieve better care for cancer patients. We do that every day, but world cancer day reminds us all of the magnitude of the task and the honour we have to help those in need.