Research points to problems booking new appointments at cancer treatment clinics

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Researchers at the University of Michigan are finding that many patients may face significant barriers to cancer care, even from their first call to a clinic.

Patients trying to access cancer care must go through several levels of communication, both before their first appointment with a doctor and during their treatment.

Making the first phone calls to find out about the cancer care services available or to make an appointment at a clinic is an important step toward beginning their treatment journey.

“Racial and ethnic disparities have been observed in the number of outpatient clinic visits for specialty care, including cancer care. However, we know very little about patients’ experiences in the crucial step of trying to access new clinic appointments for cancer care,” said Debbie Chen. , MD

Researchers set up simulated patient calls and studied whether each caller had access to cancer care — that meant whether the caller was given a clinic appointment date or scheduling information.

Using standardized scripts, the simulated patients spoke in one of three languages ​​– English, Spanish or Mandarin – and inquired about a new clinic appointment for care for colon, lung or thyroid cancer.

The simulated patients called 479 clinic phone numbers provided by general hospital information staff at 143 hospitals in 12 states.

Researchers found that access to new patient appointments for cancer care was poor for all simulated patient callers in the study, with only 41.5% of the 985 total calls successful.

Even the simulated English-speaking patient caller encountered problems, managing to access cancer care on only 61% of calls.

About a quarter of 985 calls were terminated early due to workflow barriers, including calls going to a voicemail that did not provide sufficient information, or being held on hold for more than half an hour.

Additionally, researchers found that access to new patient appointments for cancer care was worse for non-English speaking patients.

The simulated Spanish- and Mandarin-speaking patient callers accessed cancer care in only 36% and 19% of calls, respectively, far fewer than their English-speaking counterparts.

Nearly 50% of calls in Spanish or Mandarin ended due to language barriers when simulated patient callers hung up in response to the question “Speak Spanish?” or “Speak Chinese?”, or the connection was disconnected when the automated message did not provide language-specific instructions but required input to continue.

Even after connecting to interpreter services, some callers were unable to receive further assistance.

“Our study highlights the existing barriers that patients may encounter when trying to access a new clinic appointment for cancer care and illustrates how this access point functions as a gatekeeper for cancer care services, with many patient populations, including those with limited English proficiency, unable to access to access cancer care. even go in to see a doctor for their cancer care,” Chen said.

“Interventions aimed at reducing these barriers are thus necessary to increase access to cancer care for all patients.”

The paper is published in the news JAMA network opened.

More information:
Debbie W. Chen et al, Access to New Clinic Appointments for Patients with Cancer, JAMA network opened (2024). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.15587

Provided by the University of Michigan

Quote: Study highlights problems booking new appointments at cancer treatment clinics (2024, June 8), retrieved June 8, 2024 from -treatment.html

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