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Two-thirds of newly diagnosed cancer patients unable to obtain oncology appointments
Date:6/1/2011

CHICAGO -- Newly diagnosed cancer patients frequently face hurdles in obtaining an appointment for care with an oncologist, according to new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennnsylvania that will be presented Saturday, June 4 at the 2011 annual meeting of American Society of Clinical Oncology (Abstract #6128). Even callers with private health insurance had difficulty scheduling an appointment, with just 22 percent of them obtaining a slot, compared to 29 percent of uninsured patients and 17 percent of patients on Medicaid, according to results of a study in which research assistants posed as patients seeking an initial evaluation.

"Although healthcare reform is likely to expand health insurance coverage to more Americans, our research shows that even with insurance, patients face barriers when they try to access cancer care," says lead author Keerthi Gogineni, MD, an instructor in the division of Hematology-Oncology at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center. "Given the typical pre-appointment expectations for new patients which typically involve referral requirements, paperwork and routing of medical records and test results both insured and uninsured patients must contend with many challenges that delay care with a specialty cancer provider."

In the study, research assistants attempted to call 160 U.S. hospitals under three different circumstances each, varying only their insurance status as they explained their scripted patient situation, which involved a new diagnosis of an inoperable liver cancer. Callers reached a scheduler 79 percent of the time, but only 29 percent of those callers received appointments. Of the appointments ultimately scheduled, 35 percent required multiple calls to complete the process. In nearly a quarter of cases, callers failed to reach staff even after three attempts. Among reasons for denial of appointments or inability to schedule: Demand for medical records (39 percent), not being ab
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Contact: Holly Auer
holly.auer@uphs.upenn.edu
215-200-2313
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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