Background: Phone triaging patients with suspected malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) within the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) system offers a model for rapid, expert guided evaluation for patients with rare and treatable diseases within a national integrated healthcare system. To assess feasibility of national open access telephone triage using evidence-based treatment recommendations for patients with MPM, measure timelines of the triage and referral process and record the impact on "intent to treat" for patients using our service.
Methods: A retrospective study. The main outcome measures were: (1) ability to perform long distance phone triage, (2) to assess the speed of access to a mesothelioma surgical specialist for patients throughout the entire VHA, and (3) to determine if access to a specialist would alter the plan of care.
Results: Sixty veterans were screened by our phone triage program, 38 traveled an average of 997 miles to VA Boston Healthcare system. On average, 14 d elapsed from initial phone contact until the patient was physically evaluated in our general thoracic clinic in Boston. The treatment plan was altered for 71% of patients evaluated at VA Boston Healthcare system based on 2012 International Mesothelioma Interest Group guidelines.
Conclusions: Our initial experience demonstrates that in-network centralized care for Veterans with MPM is feasible within the VHA. National open access phone triage improves access to expert surgical advice and can be delivered in a timely manner for Veterans using our service. Guideline-based treatment recommendations ("intent to treat") changed the therapeutic course for the majority of patients who used our service.
Keywords: Asbestos; Centralized care model; Evidence-based treatment; Guidelines based practice; Malignant pleural mesothelioma; Phone triage; Single-payer system; Veterans; Veterans Administration Healthcare System.
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