Hospital Choice in Cancer Care

Aggarwal, A. et al. | Hospital Choice in Cancer Care: A Qualitative Study | Clinical Oncology

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Key findings:

  • Hospital choice is widening socioeconomic inequities in access to cancer treatment.
  • There is a lack of clinical support for patients to choose an alternative cancer  treatment centre.
  • The absence of hospital-level outcomes means patients are reliant on unreliable quality measures such as reputation.
  • Hospital choice enables patient to ‘exit’ care that does not meet their expectations.

Abstract
Aims
There is limited evidence about how patients respond to hospital choice policies, the factors that inform and influence patient choices or how relevant these policies are to cancer patients. This study sought to evaluate hospital choice policies from the perspective of men who received treatment for prostate cancer in the English National Health Service.

Materials and methods
Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with a purposive sample of 25 men across England. Fourteen men had chosen to receive treatment at a cancer centre other than their nearest. Interviews were recorded and analysed concurrently with data collection.

Results
Men highlight that the geographical configuration of specialist services, the perceived urgency of the condition and the protocolisation of treatment pathways all limit their choice of a specialist treatment centre. Diseases such as cancer appear not to be well suited to the patient choice model, given the lack of hospital-level outcome data. Men instead use proxy measures of quality, leaving them vulnerable to influence by marketing and media reports. Men wishing to consider other treatment centres need to independently collect and appraise complex treatment-related information, which creates socioeconomic inequities in access to treatments. A positive impact of the choice agenda is that it enables patients to ‘exit care’ not meeting their expectations.

Discussion
Policy makers have failed to consider the organisational, disease-specific and socio-cognitive factors that influence a patient’s ability to choose their cancer treatment provider. Valid comparative hospital-level performance information is required to guide patients’ choices, otherwise patients will continue to depend on informal sources, which will not necessarily improve their health care outcomes.

Full detail at Clinical Oncology online

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