Head and neck surgery services are increasingly being centralised in Australia. Outreach models can overcome burdens of travel that patients in regional and rural areas experience when attending routine appointments, by providing services closer to home.
To explore patient-reported experiences and satisfaction with regional outreach services for head and neck surgery in Australia.
Patients who attended two regional outreach clinics in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, were surveyed over a 6-month period. Patients completed the Outpatient Cancer Clinics Survey (2020 version) that explored perceptions and experiences of the clinic. Patients with cancer were asked to complete the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System and the Communication and Attitudinal Self-Efficacy scale. Descriptive statistics and analysis of data was performed, and results were compared to the NSW statewide Outpatient Cancer Clinics Survey (2020). Content analysis of free text responses was performed.
Some 128 patients responded (56% response rate; mean age 67.2 years, 46.1% female). Compared to the 2020 NSW survey, a higher proportion of patients in our cohort responded positively to 14 of the 26 questions, with the greatest differences observed for questions regarding waiting area comfort (+12.1%, p = 0.008), being informed about different treatment options (+9.5%, p = 0.04), and issues relating to parking (+9.5%, p = 0.03). A lower proportion of our sample responded positively to the question about whether health professionals knew enough about their medical history (−19.3%, p < 0.001). Respondents appreciated having a local clinic that helped them avoid travel to major cities and associated expenses and highlighted benefits of expert consultation and timeliness of investigations. However, cost of appointments and level of reimbursements remain barriers for some patients.
Patients had a high level of satisfaction with regional outreach clinics for head and neck surgery across most domains, indicating patients highly value this service.