Ninety percent of patients with cancer enter their first oncology appointment with a nutritional issue, according to Susan Bratton. However, Savor Health, who works in conjunctions with Merck’s Your Cancer Game Plan, has set out to combat just that.
In an interview with Oncology Nursing News, Bratton, founder and CEO of Savor Health, discussed the importance of nutrition for patients and caregivers before, during and after treatment, as well as the nurse’s role in the multidisciplinary approach.
Oncology Nursing News: What prompted you to create Savor Health?
Bratton: I had lost a very close friend to glioblastoma. My friend struggled with nutritional issues and when he asked, “Can I strengthen my immune system to fight alongside chemotherapy and radiation?” he was told that nutrition doesn’t matter and to eat whatever he wanted. This struck me as really odd. I was working in the healthcare industry at the time and so I went to the evidence-based literature because that was really how I had been trained. What I found was that nutrition does matter, and it matters a lot.
In fact, 90% of patients (with cancer) at the time that they walk in to their first oncology appointment are already experiencing addressable nutritional issues ranging from under 5% (who experience) weight loss and up to about 8% to 9% who already have severe malnutrition, and of course, everything in between those two points. But what my research also found is that 85% of patients are actively seeking solutions to address their nutritional issues and to answer the question of what to eat. Because there is only one dietitian for every 2,700 patients, it’s just physically impossible to address these issues from a systemic perspective. So, I looked at this and said, “Wow, there is this huge unmet need that can, not only when addressed, improve patients’ clinical outcomes, but it can also improve their quality of life – as well as their family and caregivers’ quality of life, too.
Can you briefly explain what Savor Health is?
Our mission and goal is to make the lives of patients (with cancer) and their caregivers easier and less stressful by addressing their nutritional needs and issues from point of diagnosis through treatment and in to survivorship.
How we do that is through a personalized nutrition technology platform that provides highly-personalized, clinically appropriate nutrition support and advice that is based on evidence-based science and clinical best practices. So, what that is from a patient perspective is customized tips to managing or preventing side effects or recommendations of what to eat based on what they are telling us about their situation, individually customizing recipes, and (delivery) solutions. So, it’s an end-to-end solution (that is free to patients).
How does a multidisciplinary health care approach play a role in Savor Health’s mission? In particular, what role can nurses play in helping patients with nutrition?
We are big believers in the multidisciplinary role. If I think about the multidisciplinary team that should surround a patient, it includes doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, potentially physical therapists, pharmacists, and nutritionists. Nutritionists and registered dietitians are important members of the multidisciplinary team. It is our objective to work with the medical team to understand what the patient’s issued and concerns are, and what direction the doctors and nurses are giving us. We need to work collaboratively with them.
This specifically relates to nurses. Nurses really are in the front line from a patient perspective. Doctors are also, but they don’t have as much time with the patients. (Nurses) are the unsung heroes. They are with the patients for a much longer period of time. They know when nutritional issues are happening. They have so much wisdom to provide. They know a great deal, and like doctors they are incredibly compassionate. So our goal is to work collaboratively with every one of those members of the multidisciplinary team.