Purpose: Cancer patients have many medical and psychosocial needs, which may increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. We sought to (1) risk-stratify hematology/oncology patients using general medicine and cancer-specific methods to identify those at high risk for acute care utilization, (2) measure the correlation between two risk stratification methods, and (3) perform a telephone-based needs assessment with intervention for high-risk patients.
Methods: Patients were risk-stratified using a general medical health composite score (HCS) and a cancer-specific risk (CSR) stratification based on disease and treatment characteristics. The correlation between HCS and CSR was measured using Spearman's correlation. A multi-disciplinary team developed a focused needs assessment script with recommended interventions for patients categorized as high-risk by either method. The number of patient needs identified and referrals for services made in the first month of outreach are reported.
Results: A total of 1697 patients were risk-stratified, with 17% high-risk using HCS and 22% high-risk using CSR. Correlation between HCS and CSR was modest (ρ = 0.41). During the first month of the pilot, 286 patients were called for outreach with 245 contacted (86%). Commonly identified needs were financial difficulties (17%), uncontrolled symptoms (15%), and interest in advance care planning (13%), resulting in referral for supportive services for 33% of patients.
Conclusion: There is a high burden of unmet medical and psychosocial needs in hematology/oncology patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. A telephone-based outreach program results in the identification of and intervention for these needs; however, additional cancer-specific risk models are needed to improve targeting to high-risk patients.
Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Malignancy; Quality improvement; Risk assessment.