Three Factors Impede Cancer Survivorship Care in Primary Care Practices
In the United States, the number of cancer survivors is on the rise. As of January 2016, there were more than 15.5 million cancer survivors, and there’s projected to be more than 20 million cancer survivors by 2026. After men and women conquer cancer, they still need quality healthcare to continue to lead healthy lives.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that primary care physicians serve as the primary providers of care for adult cancer survivors, but these providers can run into roadblocks when it comes to the patient’s unique needs.
To examine the issue, a multi-institutional group analyzed 12 primary care practices in the United States between March 2015 and February 2017. The clinics included internal medicine or family practice physicians. Here is an overview of what they discovered.
Barriers to Survivorship Care
All 12 practices did not provide any services for cancer survivors, and the care survivors received was the same for people who did not have cancer. Each practice experienced significant barriers to implementing specialized services.
Unrecognized Clinical Category
Clinicians did not view cancer survivors as different from other patients, and they were unfamiliar with the specifics of survivorship care. The only adjustment was to watch out for signs of the recurrence of cancer.
Lack of Actionable Information
Many patients did not have a detailed survivorship care plan. Providers only had access to outdated and insufficiently detailed cancer histories and treatment recommendations. Clinics were also not able to reach oncologists or other contacts from when the survivors had received their cancer treatment.
Survivorship Has No Code
There is no diagnostic code for survivorship, so practices’ electronic health records (EHR) cannot distinguish between survivors and the other patient population.
In the report, researchers recommend that correcting these barriers and codifying the clinical category of survivorship are important first steps to the adoption of treating the cancer survivor in primary care.
For more in-depth information, read the Oncology Nurse Advisor article.