When people ask me, ‘is having chemo at home safe?’ I find it difficult to answer. To be honest, the answer is both yes, and no.
I have worked managing a ‘home chemo’ service for just under 20 years. I have developed a robust set of systems and processes to treat cancer and chronic disease patients by receiving treatments, safely, in their homes. Arguably I am the most experienced health professional, and chemo@home is the most skilled service in delivering this type of home care.
Since the Medibank private ads aired, a number of health businesses have put up their hands and yelled ‘we can do chemo at home too!’
Posted by Medibank on Sunday, 22 April 2018
So if chemo@home can administer treatment safely, can’t everyone?
Let me explain why.
Most people would be shocked to know that to provide a home health service, you don’t actually have to be licensed or accredited. In each state, the government provides licensing for hospitals, but not ‘home hospitals.’ This means there is no state government oversight of the home health care industry anywhere in Australia.
Giving chemotherapy at home not only requires an in-depth knowledge of the national and international guidelines, but also the skills and experience to implement them safely.
Recently, I was speaking with a researcher who was trialling giving immunotherapy medication at home. The nursing staff administering the medication did not carry with them any resuscitation equipment.
No adrenaline. No defibrillator. Nothing.
When asked why, the researcher said, there is less than a 1 per cent chance of reaction, so it wasn’t deemed necessary. I then asked how many infusions were given in the trial, she answered 120.
120 infusions, 1 per cent reaction rate. So that begs the question, what happened to that one patient?
The reality is pocket sized defibrillators are expensive, and adrenaline has a short expiry date. Having the competence to use both requires the nursing team to be expertly trained and skilled. As a health care provider, you can either invest in patient safety first, or not.
Chemo@home is committed to providing the safest environment possible, and will not compromise the safety of our patients because the alternative is cheaper.
Currently, we offer approximately 140 different chemotherapy and immunotherapy regimens at home, and we continually improve our processes if, and when, problems arise. We pride ourselves on having one of the most advanced cancer management systems in Australia.
So, without proper legislation and regulation in place, is it really safe to receive your treatments at home?
Unless your receiving your treatment from a reputable service like chemo@home, the answer is probably not.
If we are not based near your town or city, don’t despair! Home therapy is the way of the future.
The government is keen to develop the home health care market as it is a more sustainable way of delivering care.
Private health insurers are trying to give members more choice by pushing to have home healthcare as part of their offering.
Hospitals are now seeing it as a way to cope with increasing patient numbers that are putting pressure on their day wards.
And, most importantly, patients and their families was treatment at home, as it is a kinder, more convenient and comfortable way to receive treatment.
Federal and state governments need to step up and plug the gaps in legislation, private health insurers and hospitals need to be careful on who they contract with, and patients need to be aware that not all healthcare services provide the same standard of care.
Patients are relying on us to keep them safe. It is our duty to do so.