Transforming the Cancer Experience

by Linda Eagen, President and CEO, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation | 23 Mar, 2018

Our healthcare system is arguably facing some of the greatest challenges in its history.  An aging population, breakthroughs in treatments, and changing patient needs have led to a system that is increasingly under pressure.  In this context, and at a time when resources are stretched, the role that patients play has become ever more important. There is an international body of evidence that shows that patient activation can significantly improve quality in healthcare.  In many jurisdictions patient activation is now a valuable way to empower patients, to improve their experience and health outcomes and to control costs, especially for populations characterized by high levels of healthcare utilization such as cancer patients.

Moreover, for many the passive term “patient” seems outdated. Increasingly patients are becoming healthcare consumers and want to be more self-reliant and better able to manage their condition with greater independence. A recent survey by the Commonwealth Fund found that 71% of patients seek greater responsibility for their own healthi. Unfortunately, existing care delivery rarely supports this emerging demand.

In 2011, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation launched a new community-based health and social care service for cancer patients, their families and caregivers: Cancer Coaching has been effective in helping cancer patients become active participants in their care leading to improved health outcomes and contributing to a more positive healthcare experience.

In 2017, when the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI) selected the Cancer Foundation for its EXTRA: Executive Training Program, a significant milestone was achieved.  This unique opportunity not only sparks the broader implementation of Cancer Coaching, it has provided our Leadership Team with the opportunity to learn from Canadian healthcare champions. Supported by EXTRA coaches and faculty, we are acquiring the knowledge and skills we need to develop effective scale-up and spread strategies. And coming together with leading healthcare innovators at the residencies has enabled us to build a powerful network, one we will rely on for years to come.

CFHI has shown exceptional foresight in welcoming us, a community group, a non-traditional contributor to healthcare improvement, into a program that aims to develop future leaders and to support them in their quality improvement project implementation. My colleagues John Ouellette, Vice President, Philanthropy and Johanne Levesque, Senior Vice-President, Survivorship Care, Professional, Practice, People and Culture, share my appreciation for this opportunity. It is our hope that armed with EXTRA learning, we will be able to enlist healthcare professionals from across the province and the country to the practice of Cancer Coaching.  Our vision is to transform the cancer experience for the thousands who will be touched by cancer in the years ahead.

It would be a pleasure to speak with you about Cancer Coaching and to help you explore ways of making this innovative service available to people in your community.  You can contact me at

Linda Eagen
Founder of Cancer Coaching
President and CEO, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation

Linda Eagen

Linda Eagen at the EXTRA: Executive Training Program residency.

ORCF team

Left to right : Johanne Levesque, John Ouellette, Linda Eagen.

i The Commonwealth Fund (2012), International perspectives on Patient Engagement: Results from the 2011 Commonwealth Fund Survey.

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