Primary care physicians' views of standardised care pathways in cancer care: A Swedish qualitative study on implementation experiences

Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 2021 Jul;30(4):e13426. doi: 10.1111/ecc.13426. Epub 2021 Feb 8.


Objective: Primary care physicians (PCPs) recently started using standardised care pathways (PCPs) to refer patients to specialists for diagnostics in Sweden. The aim of the current study is therefore to examine PCPs views of implementing standardised care pathways (SCPs) in cancer care.

Method: In total, 27 semi-structured interviews (17 individual and 10 group interviews) were conducted within 24 primary care units, including 61 physicians representing the public and private sectors. Interviews were conducted during 2017 and 2018. Data were analysed using a thematic analysis approach.

Results: Eight themes, including both perceived opportunities and challenges with the SCPs, were identified in the analysis. Most PCPs valued the SCPs, citing that they expedited the referral system and decreased patient waiting time. However, the guidelines were not completely clear leaving PCPs to wonder what constituted an SCP referral, who should initiate the referral, and how PCPs should communicate and collaborate with specialists.

Conclusion: SCPs were a welcomed organisational change by PCPs, where PCPs thought that the SCPs could help in providing better patient care to potential cancer patients. However, updated guidelines and clarifications within the SCPs are warranted to have increased services for both the patients and medical personnel.

Keywords: Sweden; cancer patients; implementation; primary care physicians; standardised care pathways; waiting time.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Physicians, Primary Care*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Qualitative Research
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Sweden