Inclusion of a dedicated nurse navigator in the care team of patients with pancreatic neoplasm resulted in a substantial reduction in time from initial healthcare provider contact to intervention, according to results from a retrospective, single-institution study published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology.

Given the frequent need for multidisciplinary input from surgical, medical, and radiation oncology involved in the development of a treatment plan for patients with pancreatic cancer, the authors of this study sought to determine the effect of including an oncology nurse navigator as a care coordinator at or before the first oncology visit on the timeliness of care implementation in a cohort of patients with any pancreatic neoplasm treated between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2017, at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated, tertiary referral comprehensive cancer center.

The study involved a comparison of 2 groups within this patient cohort: those included in the database prior to and those included after October 1, 2016, the date a single nurse navigator was added to the care teams. The dedicated nurse navigator was a registered nurse with a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing who had more than 20 years of work experience at the cancer center. She met with patients from their first visit and provided individualized guidance including orientation to facilities, as well as referrals and appointments with medical subspecialties, dieticians, counselors, and support groups.

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Fifty-seven and 79 patients were included in the database before and after October 1, 2016, respectively. There were no significant differences in the age or race of patients in these groups, although the percentage of men was significantly higher in the former group. The percentages of patients undergoing surgery, radiation, or palliative care were not significantly affected by inclusion of the nurse navigator in the care team. However, when a number of patient-specific factors were accounted for, involvement of a nurse navigator was associated with a decrease of 15.9 days from first healthcare provider contact to intervention (P =.009).

“As multidisciplinary treatment becomes the standard of care for patients with pancreatic malignancies, a dedicated provider to coordinate care among oncology divisions will be imperative to decrease delays in care,” the authors wrote.

Enomoto LM, Fenstermaker J, Desnoyers RJ, et al. Oncology navigation decreases time to treatment in patients with pancreatic malignancy [published online January 16, 2019]. Ann Surg Oncol. doi: 10.1245/s10434-019-07157-6.