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Examination of health system resources and costs associated with transitioning cancer survivors to primary care: a propensity-score-matched cohort study

Mittmann N, Beglaryan H, Liu N, Seung SJ, Rahman F, Gilbert J, De Rossi S, Earle CC, Grunfeld E, Zwicker V, LeBlanc D, Sussman J. J Oncol Pract. 2018; 14(11):e653-4. Epub 2018 Oct 15. DOI: 10.1200/JOP.18.00275.


Background — Transitioning low-risk cancer survivors back to their primary care provider (PCP) has been shown to be safe but the effect on health system resources and costs has not been examined.

Methods — A Well Follow-Up Care Initiative (WFCI) was implemented in the publicly funded health system. Low-risk breast cancer (BC) survivors in the WFCI intervention group were transitioned from oncologist-led cancer clinics to PCPs. We compared health system costs ($2,014 in Canadian dollars) and resource utilization in this intervention group with that in propensity-score-matched nontransitioned BC survivors (ie, controls) diagnosed in the same year, with similar disease profile and patient characteristics using publicly funded administrative databases.

Results — A total of 2,324 BC survivors from the WFCI intervention group were 1:1 matched to controls and observed for 25 months. Compared with controls, survivors in the intervention group incurred a similar number of PCP visits (6.9 v 7.5) and fewer oncologist visits (0.3 v 1.2) per person-year. Fewer survivors in the intervention group (20.1%) were hospitalized than in the control group (24.4%). There were no differences in emergency visits. More survivors in the intervention group had mammograms (82.6% v 73.1%), but other diagnostic tests were less frequent. There was a 39.3% reduction in overall mean annual costs ($6,575 v $10,832) and a 22.1% reduction in overall median annual costs ($2,261 v $2,903). Overall survival in the intervention group was not worse than controls.

Conclusion — Transitioning low-risk BC survivors to PCPs was associated with lower health system resource use and a lower annual cost per patient than matched controls. The WFCI model represents a reasonable approach at the population level to delivering quality care for low-risk BC survivors that seems to be cost effective.

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