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A Needs Assessment and patient feedback indicated the need for peer connection, support and information to women experiencing breast cancer or an increased lifetime risk of developing it.

In October 2016, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) and Women’s College Hospital (WCH) initiated the Onsite Peer Support and Information Program. This collaborative partnership delivered peer support and information to women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, newly identified genetic mutation carriers and those considering breast reconstruction. A Peer Support and Information Program Specialist, a woman who has had breast cancer, facilitated the program, and provided in-person support and information. Prior to COVID, the program was offered in the Breast Centre 1.5 days per week. Program goals included:

• Decreasing fear and anxiety
• Improving understanding and coping strategies
• Empowering patients
• Liberating medical teams’ time
• Engaging patients with CCS programs

Onsite program feedback showed excellent results in overall satisfaction, recommendation of program, access to service, and reduction in fear and anxiety. In 2018, this program was recognized as an innovative Leading Practice.

Due to COVID-19, in-person and non-essential contact was restricted. As a result, the program was transformed to a virtual format, continuing to provide confidential, accessible patient-centred care within a multidisciplinary team. Program uptake has increased significantly, and patient feedback has consistently remained high.

Program transformation included considerations about privacy, consent, patient and team communication, documentation, email information links, connection for future patient meetings and electronic patient feedback surveys. This effective virtual transformation is highly adaptable to other departments or organizations.

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