Background: Emergency department (ED) use and hospitalization is distressing to cancer patients and drives up the cost of health care. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that more than half of those visits may be avoidable. Objective: To examine the impact of a nurse practitioner (NP)-led, physician-supervised, outpatient symptom management clinic on ED use. Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of ED encounters to quantify the frequency of ED use by oncology patients at a community cancer institute 6 months before (October 2012-March 2013) and after (April-September 2013) the initiation of an NP-staffed symptom management clinic. Results: The highest use of the ED and supportive clinic was among patients with advanced cancer, most commonly with lung or breast cancer, who were receiving cytotoxic chemotherapy. Uncontrolled symptoms of shortness of breath, pain, weakness, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea commonly led to ED visits. Despite instituting the NP-staffed symptom management clinic to manage those symptoms, there was a 17.9% increase in ED use. However, of the patients seen by the NP, 95% may have avoided hospitalization. Limitations: Retrospective study Conclusions: Our study identifies a high-risk population of patients who use the ED frequently. NP-led clinics could aggressively manage the symptom burden of these patients and potentially reduce ED visits as other studies have demonstrated. Although our study did not directly demonstrate this, we have identified weaknesses of care delivery in our clinic that could be optimized. In addition, we have demonstrated that the majority of patients seen for acute symptoms by an NP avoided and ED visit.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes