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Older Lung Cancer Patients Burdened by Excessive Healthcare Appointments

mesothelioma-surgery-lung-cancer-patientsOlder lung cancer patients are burdened with an inordinately high number of healthcare system interactions after surgery or radiation therapy, according to a Yale University study published in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

The study, based on data from 8,000 Medicare beneficiaries, measured the burden imposed on early-stage lung cancer patients in terms of their interactions with the healthcare system in the first 60 days following surgery or radiation therapy. Such interactions included:

  • Emergency department visits
  • Hospital-based follow-up care
  • Number of physicians seen
  • Medications prescribed
  • Outpatient visits

The numbers didn’t lie. Older patients saw an average of 20 different physicians and took an average of 12 different medications after surgery or radiation therapy. They spent an average of one out of every three days interacting with the healthcare system in the two months following their lung cancer treatment.

The findings “highlight a need to improve cancer care coordination,” according to first author of the study Dr. Carolyn Presley, Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at Yale School of Medicine. Post-treatment burdens fell hardest on patients with a higher number of medical conditions in addition to their lung cancer, but Presley stressed the need to lighten the burden for all cancer patients.

Cancer treatment could be streamlined by:

  • Reducing the number of visits
  • Scheduling visits on the same days
  • Reducing redundant tests, labs, and medications
  • Prescribing SBRT (radiation) vs. surgery or EBRT radiation
  • Investing in case management and care coordination

“Treatment burden matters to patients and affects compliance and satisfaction with care,” the study states. “As our health care system advances toward value-based and patient-centered care, treatment burden will be an important quality to measure.”