May 4, 2017

Providers are creating new options for cancer patients who need urgent care

Daily Briefing

Hospitals and oncology practices increasingly are offering urgent care services specifically targeted toward cancer patients to help such patients access care more quickly, Michelle Andrews writes for Kaiser Health News.

According to KHN, the services also can help ensure cancer patients receive care from specialists who are used to dealing with the patients' diseases and related symptoms.

For instance, Lindsay Conway, a managing director at Advisory Board, said, "What we hear from cancer physicians and administrators is that in the emergency department [ED] not all emergency physicians and nurses feel equally confident in their ability to treat cancer patients … So they may admit them when it's not necessary."

Thomas Froehlich—medical director of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center's cancer clinics, which began offering same-day urgent services to cancer patients over a year ago—said the services can help cancer patients to avoid EDs and hospital admissions.

Froehlich explained that cancer treatment "clearly carries a lot of side effects and toxicity, and there are also complications of dealing with the cancer." He added, "Many of these things, if you can intervene early, you keep patients at home and out of the hospital."

Keeping patients out of EDs and hospitals can help to reduce costs, KHN reports.

For example, 80 percent of patients who seek care at Johns Hopkins Hospital's urgent care center for cancer patients are discharged home. The cost of care for those patients averages $1,600, according to Sharon Krumm, director of nursing at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. In comparison, only about 20 percent of cancer patients who seek care at the hospital's ED are discharged home, and the costs of care for those patients averages $2,300—while those who are admitted to the hospital might face significantly higher costs.

Further, J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy CMO at the American Cancer Society, said offering same-day urgent care services for cancer patients correlates with a larger shift within the oncology field to focus on patient-centered care, which is supported by new Medicare payment models. "There's a general sense within the practice of oncology that we need to do a better job of managing pain and side effects, and we need to provide a higher level of care," he said (Andrews, Kaiser Health News, 5/2).

How to get cancer patients the care they need—quickly

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Cancer patients don't just want treatment that work, they want to quickly receive care. But Rising cancer incidence, more treatment options, and better outcomes mean that many cancer programs are running at or above capacity—and their providers are unable to see patients in a timely manner.

Read this study to learn seven tactics for providing faster, more reliable care by redesigning the schedule to see patients sooner and improving throughput to reduce care delays.

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