This article first appeared May 02, 2017 on Kaiser Health News
A small but growing number of hospitals and oncology practices are incorporating urgent care aimed specifically at cancer patients.
On an afternoon a few weeks ago, Faithe Craig noticed that her temperature spiked to just above 100 degrees. For most people, the change might not be cause for alarm, but Craig is being treated for stage 3 breast cancer, and any temperature change could signal a serious problem.
She called her nurse at the hospital clinic where she gets care at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who told her to come in immediately for cancer urgent-care services at the hospital’s hematology oncology clinic.
“I thought I’d be waiting there all night,” said Craig, 33. But the hospital had already lined up a blood draw before she arrived and then sent her directly to get X-rays.
Clinicians had details of her cancer care at their fingertips. “They already knew my story and knew everything about me,” she said. The blood work showed she had severe anemia, requiring a blood transfusion, pronto.
It’s been more than a year since the medical center began providing same-day urgent care services to cancer patients. It’s an effort to help them avoid the emergency department and hospital admissions, said Dr. Thomas Froehlich, medical director of the all the center’s cancer clinics.
Cancer treatment “clearly carries a lot of side effects and toxicity, and there are also complications of dealing with the cancer,” Froehlich said. “Many of these things, if you can intervene early, you keep patients at home and out of the hospital.”
UT Southwestern isn’t alone. A small but growing number of hospitals and oncology practices are incorporating urgent care aimed specifically at cancer patients, in which specialists are available for same-day appointments, often with extended hours, sometimes 24/7.
Keeping cancer patients out of the emergency department makes sense not only because many of them have compromised immune systems that put them at risk in a waiting room full of sick people, but to provide the most efficient and appropriate care.
Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.