Engaging managing physicians in clinical staging prior to the initiation of cancer treatment


Aurora Health Care


Background: Managing physicians (medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, surgeons) have a responsibility to clinically stage patients prior to the initiation of cancer treatment. Clinical staging not only directs the treatment plan, but identifies appropriate clinical trials and estimates prognosis. We sought to determine whether engagement of managing physicians would result in increased clinical staging for various types of cancer.

Methods: Baseline data on clinical staging for breast, colorectal (colon, rectal, anal, rectosigmoid junction)*, thoracic (lung esophageal)†, genitourinary (prostate, penis, testes)‡, and pancreatic primary cancers were obtained. The data were grouped by disease type and sub-specialty of the managing physicians. Based on that data, several performance improvement initiatives were implemented to provide managing physicians the opportunity to clinically stage the cancer patient prior to the initiation of treatment. The initiatives for completing and documenting staging were: a tutorial on use of Problem List in the electronic medical record (EMR); modification of history & physical and consult notes to include a field for staging; sharing among sub-specialties the smart lists within the template to allow for customization of existing templates; and 1:1 review with physicians who had outliers without clinical staging.

Results: Clinical staging documented prior to the initiation of cancer treatment significantly increased in all five types of cancers studied (p < .01; Table).

Conclusions: Though collaborative efforts by managing physicians continues to evolve, in many cases, use of the electronic medical record through a variety of performance improvement initiatives has facilitated documentation of clinical staging of cancer patients prior to the initiation of treatment. This engagement changed practice patterns, aligned our institution with best practice guidelines and aided in treatment selection for the best possible patient outcomes.

Documentation of clinical staging prior to initiation of cancer treatment. Cancer20132014 Breast 89% 93% Colorectal* 74% 94% Thoracic 71% 95% Genitourinary‡ 67% 84% Pancreatic 59% 95%

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