Obstacles With oncology for newly -diagnosed patients

- Fri., Oct. 21, 2011
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A new study finds landing an appointment with a cancer specialist isn’t as easy as picking up the phone.

A breast cancer diagnosis is a painfully surreal jolt into the complicated infrastructure of medicine and doctors. To add to the already horrifying ordeal, new research shows that recently diagnosed patients frequently face challenges getting an appointment with an oncologist, regardless of their health insurance status.

The research, which comes from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, shows that only 22 percent of callers with private health insurance obtained a slot, in contrast to the 29 percent of uninsured patients and the 17 percent of patients on Medicaid.

“Given the typical pre-appointment expectations for new patients, both insured and uninsured patients must contend with many challenges that delay care with a specialty cancer provider,” said Keerthi Gogineni, M.D., the lead author of the research and an instructor in the division of Hematology-Oncology at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center.

Research assistants posed as patients for the study, calling 160 U.S. hospitals under different circumstances, varying their insurance status and saying they had an inoperable form of liver cancer. Only 29 percent received appointments, and of those, 35 percent required multiple calls to get scheduled.

Reasons for appointment denial included the demand for medical records at 39 percent, not being able to reach appropriate schedulers at 24 percent and referral requirements at 18 percent.

Gogineni and her co-author, Katrina Armstrong, M.D., made note of the number of patients living with cancer and the number of available oncologists, saying that this study helps show the urgent matter at hand. They suggest patient navigator systems that coach the diagnosed through the first stage of the disease.

“Patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer may be confused or frightened,” said Armstrong, chief of the division of Greater Internal Medicine and associate director of Outcomes and Delivery in the Abramson Cancer Center, in a press release. “Cancer centers should be prepared to provide help with those preliminary steps.”

© CTW Features


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