A new study reports that patients with head and neck cancer received definitive treatment recommendations within two weeks of presentation when researchers used a patient navigation model in which all patients met with a nurse navigator who coordinated their care (JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;141:804-809).
The study investigators set out to determine the feasibility of providing treatment recommendations within a two-week period from time of disease presentation. They found that 47 of the 93 (51%) patients included in the study received treatment recommendations within this two-week goal.
To achieve the goal, a nurse patient navigator met with each patient within two days of patient presentation and referral to guide the patient through clinical visits, lab work, and discussions of treatment recommendations.
According to Paul Friedlander, MD, a clinical associate professor with the department of otolaryngology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans and senior author of the study, there was increased recognition after Hurricane Katrina of healthcare disparities and the substantial number of high-risk patients who presented to the researchers’ tertiary referral center with head and neck cancer in advanced stages of disease.
In an attempt to provide better care and address the healthcare disparities, Dr. Friedlander and his team looked at the timeliness of care for head and neck cancer in their clinic and developed the patient navigator protocol to facilitate quicker and more efficient treatment.
Along with showing that the two-week goal from presentation to treatment could be attained, the study found no differences among the patients who met this goal in terms of patient race, sex, insurance status, or disease stage.
Dr. Friedlander said that the platform used in the study could be used by others as a template or guideline. However, he emphasized that each system of care needs to determine what their goals are in terms of time to deliver care to design their own protocol that fits their needs and goals.