Better Urgent Care For Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy

cancer patients receiving chemo therapy

Cancer Patients Receiving Chemotherapy Need More Than Emergency Room Care

Hundreds of thousands of cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and other treatments visit emergency rooms nationally every year as their only alternative for after-hours care.

Fatigue and vomiting after chemo alone can lead to dehydration and cascade into more severe symptoms and complications. If left unchecked till ‘normal business hours’, a chemo patient can spiral into unnecessary waters, furthering their pain and discomfort which can result in a hospital admission …unnecessarily.

In fact, it’s estimated that 90% of cancer patients will need and seek care for:

  • Dehydration
  • Dyspnea (difficulty breathing)
  • Pain
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Fever

The Problem: Most need (and ultimately seek) care for these complications after hours.

For the majority of patients, the only available alternative is the emergency room where they endure delayed care and long waits within an environment of illness that can present multiple, additional threats to their already-compromised health.

Further, they often receive unnecessary tests and treatments due to a lack of specific training regarding the care and management of the cancer patient.

Cancer patients receiving chemo therapy

Added stress, costs and risks

Many prominent cancer centers are expanding urgent care facilities dedicated to the care of cancer patients, recognizing that through the use of Nurse Practitioners with oncology training, management of common problems can be delivered faster and at a reduced cost to both the patient and the hospital.

IVs for dehydration and anti-nausea medication can be quickly administered, allowing the patient time to improve and ultimately, be discharged home without a hospital admission.

By receiving proper, more direct care through trained oncology-dedicated urgent care staff and facilities in a timely fashion (when symptoms first present themselves), the need for admission to the hospital is greatly reduced.

Still, only an estimated 20% of cancer programs nationwide offer help for cancer patients. Many of these specialty clinics continue to operate only in traditional daytime hours, 8 am – 5 pm, and in some cases, remain open till 9 pm, Monday – Friday. Overwhelmingly, most fail to meet the needs of the cancer patient in crisis during after-hour events and on weekends.

Over a decade ago, large medical centers began to grasp the need for dedicated space to treat cardiology patients — a segregated space to monitor a cardiac patient’s vitals and offer IV fluids, medication and other treatments that may improve a patient’s condition over a matter of hours, reducing the need for prolonged ER stays, or for admission to the hospital altogether.

Perhaps it’s time for such consideration of cancer patients — built into the existing, or proposed plans for new emergency departments — as a means to deliver proper, appropriate care to the cancer patient in a safe, expedited and comprehensive manner through a dedicated oncology-trained staff.

By doing so, the patient’s experience and outcome would be enhanced, while also reducing the unnecessary costs of traditional emergency room care and admission costs.

A win-win all around.

If you have experienced care from a dedicated cancer-related urgent care provider (available 24/7, or after-hours) please leave a comment or thought to help others who may need the same in your area.

Of course, all your comments are welcomed and appreciated!

To find out more about how having a complete, printed medical information outline can reduce the stress of a medical crisis, check out our post here.

Posted in Chronic Care, Health Challenges.

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