Coordinating cancer care: Patient and practice management processes among surgeons who treat breast cancer

OBJECTIVES: The Institute of Medicine has called for more coordinated cancer care models that correspond to initiatives led by cancer providers and professional organizations. These initiatives parallel those underway to integrate the management of patients with chronic conditions.

METHODS: We developed 5 breast cancer patient and practice management process measures based on the Chronic Care Model. We then performed a survey to evaluate patterns and correlates of these measures among attending surgeons of a population-based sample of patients diagnosed with breast cancer between June 2005 and February 2007 in Los Angeles and Detroit (N = 312; response rate, 75.9%).

RESULTS: Surgeon practice specialization varied markedly with about half of the surgeons devoting 15% or less of their total practice to breast cancer, whereas 16.2% of surgeons devoted 50% or more. There was also large variation in the extent of the use of patient and practice management processes with most surgeons reporting low use. Patient and practice management process measures were positively associated with greater levels of surgeon specialization and the presence of a teaching program. Cancer program status was weakly associated with patient and practice management processes.

CONCLUSION: Low uptake of patient and practice management processes among surgeons who treat breast cancer patients may indicate that surgeons are not convinced that these processes matter, or that there are logistical and cost barriers to implementation. More research is needed to understand how large variations in patient and practice management processes might affect the quality of care for patients with breast cancer.

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