Background Most cancer patients have symptoms from their disease or treatment. Symptoms are not ideally managed in the context of busy clinics, resulting in potentially avoidable emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations. Adjunct supportive care clinics (SCCs) may more effectively address patient needs, but they contribute to fractionation of care if different personnel are involved. Objective We describe an SCC embedded within a physician practice in which an employed nurse practitioner delivered most of the care. We measured the disposition of patients from the SCC to the ED, and the effect on ED visits and admissions for symptom management. Methods We conducted a retrospective review of the patients attending the SCC over a period of 11 months. Demographics and disposition outcomes were tracked and compared with pre-intervention controls. Results In all, 340 visits were recorded from 330 unique patients. Same-day and next-day appointments with a nurse practitioner were arranged for 62% and 25% of patients, respectively. The most common complaints related to pain and gastrointestinal issues. Most of the patients were discharged home. A few needed hospitalization or ED-level care. Admissions for symptom-related care fell by 31%. An estimated 66 ED visits were avoided by patients accessing the SCC. Limitations The study was retrospective. It did not include detailed fnancial data. Results may not be generalizable because of the high level of central planning and use of a shared electronic medical record system, which may be lacking in some practices. Conclusions An embedded supportive care clinic allowed rapid access to experienced oncology care under supervision by the patient's own oncologists. The clinic was associated with less use of the ED and need for hospitalization. New methods of reimbursing medical care will increasingly require oncology practices to improve patient access to symptom-related care to avoid unnecessary admissions. An embedded SCC can accomplish these goals while avoiding further fractionation of care.
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