Patterns and Results of Triage Advice Before Emergency Department Visits Made by Patients With Cancer

Arthur S. Hong, Hannah Chang, D. Mark Courtney, Hannah Fullington, Simon J.Craddock Lee, John W. Sweetenham, Ethan A. Halm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: Patients with cancer undergoing treatment frequently visit the emergency department (ED) for commonly anticipated complaints (eg, pain, nausea, and vomiting). Nearly all Medicare Oncology Care Model (OCM) participants prioritized ED use reduction, and the OCM requires that patients have 24-hour telephone access to a clinician, but actual reductions in ED visits have been mixed. Little is known about the use of telephone triage for acute care. METHODS: We identified adults aged 18+ years newly diagnosed with cancer, linked to ED visits from a single institution within 6 months after diagnosis, and then analyzed the telephone and secure electronic messages in the preceding 24 hours. We coded interactions to classify the reason for the call, the main ED referrer, and other attempted management. We compared the acuity of patient self-referred versus clinician-referred ED visits by modeling hospitalization and ED visit severity. RESULTS: From 2011 to 2018, 3,247 adults made 5,371 ED visits to the university hospital and self-referred to the ED 58.5% of the time. Clinicians referred to outpatient or oncology urgent care for 10.3% of calls but referred to the ED for 61.3%. Patient self-referred ED visits were likely to be hospitalized (adjusted Odds Ratio [aOR], 0.89, 95% CI, 0.64 to 1.22) and were not more severe (aOR, 0.75, 95% CI, 0.55 to 1.02) than clinician referred. CONCLUSION: Although patients self-referred for six of every 10 ED visits, self-referred visits were not more severe. When patients called for advice, clinicians regularly recommended the ED. More should be done to understand barriers that patients and clinicians experience when trying to access non-ED acute care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e564-e574
JournalJCO Oncology Practice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Health Policy
  • Oncology(nursing)


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