Researchers from The June Hancock Mesothelioma Research Fund have discovered a better way of communicating with mesothelioma patients, which can improve patient outcomes and provide a better quality of life.

Doctors Kate Hill, Mags Portman, and Zsuzsanna Tabi tested a new “Meet the Researchers” concept with mesothelioma patients, and the results are encouraging.

Traditional symposium presentations are commonplace in the medical community and is a popular way to share medical and research information. But it doesn’t work well for patients, as researchers typically talk to other researchers and subject experts. From a patient perspective, the information is dry, hard to absorb and often inaccessible.

Meet The Researchers Improves Patient Understanding

Meet The Researchers breaks down those barriers with a patient-focused concept that puts mesothelioma patients at the same tables as researchers. It encourages interactive discussion that’s beneficial for patients and caregivers, as it helps them understand their disease and potential treatment options from the future.

But Meet The Researchers is also beneficial to researchers, many of whom are laboratory-focused and don’t interact with mesothelioma patients on a regular basis. Researchers get to know the types of people involved in their research, receiving feedback and hearing their fears, treatment concerns and motivations first-hand.

What may have initially seemed like a charitable event quickly became an invaluable learning experience for the researchers involved.

Why Does Mesothelioma Health Literacy Matter?

Research has proven that patients who understand their disease and medical treatments have higher survival rates and a better quality of life. When medical teams take the time to help patients understand as much as possible about their disease, from the location to treatment strategy to research initiatives, patients have better outcomes. But how is this possible?

This concept—called health literacy—empowers patients with knowledge that helps them buy into the medical plan. Patients who understand their disease and treatment plan are more likely to:

  • Understand what’s happening to their bodies
  • Ask questions about their health
  • Follow treatment plans
  • Advocate for their needs
  • Participate in supportive health activities

Mesothelioma patients with higher health literacy have the knowledge and skills to help themselves combat their disease.

The Meet The Researchers Format

There are many ways to improve health literacy, but the Meet the Researchers format combines two intriguing concepts into one: Shark Tank and speed dating.

Just like the Shark Tank TV show, Meet The Researchers brings in subject matter experts who are given approximately five minutes to pitch their research ideas and then answer any questions. The patients are the “Sharks,” so-to-speak, who interview the researchers and sharing their feedback. The objective isn’t to criticize the mesothelioma researchers but the casual interview format, in which a handful of patients outnumber one or two researchers, helps patients find their voice and speak up.

Then, comes the speed dating. Each researcher meets with a table for 20-30 minutes, allowing plenty of time to share their research and have a discussion. But when the time is up, the researchers move to the next table. This speed dating format gives patients exposure to numerous different experts, with plenty of time to hear about the research.

Both the Shark Tank and speed dating concepts purposefully scrap the traditional presentation format, where a single person addresses a passive audience. Instead, everyone present is given a voice and is part of an active, ongoing discussion, which helps improve health literacy.

How To Improve Your Health Literacy

Mesothelioma patients, caregivers, and family members who want to improve their health literacy have several ways to get involved.

Action Mesothelioma Day is an annual event hosted by the British Lung Foundation that occurs on the first Friday of July. If you are able to attend this Meet The Researchers event, it is an excellent opportunity to expand your mesothelioma literacy.

But even patients who can’t attend mesothelioma events have many opportunities to get involved with their health and improve their understanding of mesothelioma, including:

  • Before every appointment, write down every related question you can think of and then ask your doctor
  • Review each of your medications in detail with your doctor, as well as your pharmacist
  • Join mesothelioma support groups
  • Ask your doctor to connect you with mesothelioma experts
  • Listen to podcasts or read articles about mesothelioma from reputable sources

Regardless of how one chooses to learn about mesothelioma, an improved understanding of the disease can help mesothelioma patients beat the odds and improve their prognosis.