Introduction: Lung cancer (LC) is the most common cause of cancer death in Denmark, and triaging patients through fast-track diagnostic pathways is recommended to improve patient outcome. Data on the most efficient triage organisation of such pathways are limited. The aim of this study was to test a strategy of a straight-to-test model for patients referred to the fast-track pathway. Outcomes were number of computed tomographies (CT) performed, use of specialist time and staff acceptability.
Material and methods: We performed a randomised controlled study enrolling 493 patients who were referred from general practice to fast-track LC evaluation (1 January-1 December 2012). Half of the patients were randomly assigned to the intervention and went straight to a chest CT before chest-physician evaluation. Time was measured for patients at random days. Acceptability was examined in a focus group interview.
Results: In the intervention group, 95.5% of patients had a CT performed compared with 97.2% in the control group. There was no difference in the number of CTs between the groups (risk difference (RD) = 1.3% (95% confidence interval (CI): 4.4-2.0; p = 0.454)). In the intervention group, chest-physician time was 13.3 min. (min.-max.: 7.7-19.5 min.) lower per referred patient than in the control group.
Conclusion: Giving general practitioners direct access to a CT did not change the number of CTs performed and significantly reduced chest-physician time per patient. In addition, the strategy was associated with high levels of staff acceptability.
Funding: The project was supported by the Danish Cancer Research Foundation, the Danish Cancer Society and the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01779726.