Context: Palliative care in oncology provides multiple benefits, however access to specialty palliative clinicians is limited in community cancer centers. Individual support services are more often available, but little is known on the utilization and impact of these services. Objectives: To describe the utilization of outpatient support services in the advanced cancer population and the association with ED and hospital use in a community setting. Methods: A retrospective chart review of 314 patients with advanced cancer of lung, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and gynecologic origin was conducted. Data collected included demographics, descriptive data, type and number of support services (symptom management, nurse navigator, social worker, nutrition, financial counselor, chaplain, and oncology clinical counselor) within 90 days of diagnosis and descriptions of ED visits/hospitalizations within 12 months of diagnosis. Support services were available to patients by referral. Results: 29.6% of patients were deceased within 6 months and were considered to have severe disease. Patients with severe disease had a significantly greater mean number of support services than patients with non-severe disease (8.9 vs 6.0, p=0.001) and had a greater mean number of visits per year to the ED (6.4 vs 1.8, p<0.001). A greater proportion of patients with severe disease had palliative consultations (48.9% vs 21.7%, p<0.001), but 65.5% of palliative consultations occurred after an ED or hospital visit. Conclusion: Our data demonstrated that advanced cancer patients with severe disease had increased healthcare utilization in all areas measured. Despite high utilization, outpatient support services used in a reactive manner were not effective in reducing ED or hospital visits.
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