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Factors Influencing Patient Pathways for Receipt of Cancer Care at an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center

By Gage-Bouchard Elizabeth A., Rodriguez Elisa M., Saad-Harfouche Frances G., Miller Austin and Erwin Deborah O.


Within the field of oncology, increasing access to high quality care has been identified as a priority to reduce cancer disparities. Previous research reveals that the facilities where patients receive their cancer care have implications for cancer outcomes. However, there is little understanding of how patients decide where to seek cancer care. This study examined the factors that shape patients’ pathways to seek their cancer care at a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center (NCI-CCC), and differences in these factors by race, income and education.In-depth interviews and survey questionnaires were administered to a random sample of 124 patients at one NCI-CCC in the Northeast US. In-depth interview data was first analyzed qualitatively to identify themes and patterns in patients’ pathways to receive their cancer care at an NCI-CCC. Logistic Regression was used to examine if these pathways varied by patient race, income, and education.Two themes emerged: following the recommendation of a physician and following advice from social network members. Quantitative data analysis shows that patient pathways to care at an NCI-CCC varied by education and income. Patients with lower income and education most commonly sought their cancer care at an NCI-CCC due to the recommendation of a physician. Patients with higher income and education most commonly cited referral by a specialist physician or the advice of a social network member. There were no statistically significant differences in pathways to care by race.Our findings show that most patients relied on physician recommendations or advice from a social network member in deciding to seek their cancer care at an NCI-CCC. Due to the role of physicians in shaping patients’ pathways to the NCI-CCC, initiatives that strengthen partnerships between NCI-CCCs and community physicians who serve underserved communities may improve access to NCI-CCCs

Publisher: Public Library of Science
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110649
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