Increasing costs and medical complexity are significant challenges in modern oncology. We explored the use of clinical pathways to support clinical decision making and manage resources prospectively across our network.
Materials and Methods
We created customized lung cancer pathways and partnered with a commercial vendor to provide a Web-based platform for real-time decision support and post-treatment data aggregation. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) Pathways for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) were introduced in January 2014. We identified all DFCI patients who were diagnosed and treated for stage IV NSCLC in 2012 (before pathways) and 2014 (after pathways). Costs of care were determined for 1 year from the time of diagnosis.
Pre- and postpathway cohorts included 160 and 210 patients with stage IV NSCLC, respectively. The prepathway group had more women but was otherwise similarly matched for demographic and tumor characteristics. The total 12-month cost of care (adjusted for age, sex, race, distance to DFCI, clinical trial enrollment, and EGFR and ALK status) demonstrated a $15,013 savings after the implementation of pathways ($67,050 before pathways v $52,037 after pathways). Antineoplastics were the largest source of cost savings. Clinical outcomes were not compromised, with similar median overall survival times (10.7 months before v 11.2 months after pathways; P = .08).
After introduction of a clinical pathway in metastatic NSCLC, cost of care decreased significantly, with no compromise in survival. In an era where comparative outcomes analysis and value assessment are increasingly important, the implementation of clinical pathways may provide a means to coalesce and disseminate institutional expertise and track and learn from care decisions.