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Trajectories of health care contact days for patients with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer


Importance — Patients with stage IV non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) experience substantial morbidity and mortality. Contact days (ie, the number of days with health care contact outside the home) measure how much of a person’s life is consumed by health care, yet little is known about patterns of contact days for patients with NSCLC.

Objective — To describe the trajectories of contact days in patients with stage IV NSCLC and how trajectories vary by receipt of cancer-directed treatment in routine practice.

Design, Setting, and Participants — A retrospective, population-based decedent cohort study was conducted in Ontario, Canada. Participants included adults aged 20 years or older who were diagnosed with stage IV NSCLC (January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2017) and died (January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2019); there was a maximum 2-year follow-up. Data analysis was conducted from February 22 to August 16, 2023.

Exposure — Systemic cancer-directed therapy (yes or no) and type of therapy (chemotherapy vs immunotherapy vs targeted therapy).

Main Outcomes and Measures — Contact days (days with health care contact, outpatient or institution-based, outside the home) were identified through administrative data. The weekly percentage of contact days and fitted models with cubic splines were quantified to describe trajectories from diagnosis until death.

Results — A total of 5785 decedents with stage IV NSCLC were included (median age, 70 [IQR 62-77] years; 3108 [53.7%] were male, and 1985 [34.3%] received systemic therapy). The median overall survival was 108 (IQR, 49-426) days, median contact days were 36 (IQR, 21-62), and the median percentage that were contact days was 33.3%. A median of 5 (IQR, 2-10) days were spent with specialty palliative care. Patients who did not receive systemic therapy had a median overall survival of 66 (IQR, 34-130) days and median contact days of 28 (IQR, 17-44), of which a median of 5 (IQR, 2-9) days were spent with specialty palliative care. Overall and for subgroups, normalized trajectories followed a U-shaped distribution: contact days were most frequent immediately after diagnosis and before death. Patients who received targeted therapy had the lowest contact day rate during the trough (10.6%; vs immunotherapy, 15.4%; vs chemotherapy, 17.7%).

Conclusions and Relevance — In this cohort study, decedents with stage IV NSCLC had a median survival in the order of 3.5 months and spent 1 in every 3 days alive interacting with the health care system outside the home. These results highlight the need to better support patients and care partners, benchmark appropriateness, and improve care delivery.



Gupta A, Nguyen P, Kain D, Robinson AG, Kulkarni AA, Johnson DH, Presley CJ, Blaes AH, Rocque GB, Ganguli I, Booth CM, Hanna TP. JAMA Netw Open. 2024; 7(4):e244278. Epub 2024 Apr 8.

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