Early Findings on the Use of Clinical Pathways for Management of Unwarranted Variation in Cancer Care

Am J Med Qual. 2021 Jun 8. doi: 10.1097/01.JMQ.0000749852.10699.bc. Online ahead of print.


Clinical pathways have the potential to improve complex clinical decision-making in cancer care. The authors implemented pathways with customized content to assist oncologists to select treatments, aiming for an on-pathway rate of 70%-85%. Treatment decisions were captured as on or off pathway, and metrics were shared monthly with users. Oncologists were categorized into quintiles based on on-pathway performance during the first 90 days of use. On-pathway rates were then calculated for days 91-360 (N = 121). Median on-pathway quintile rates varied from 50% to 100% in the initial 90-day period. During follow-up, median on-pathway rates shifted into the prespecified goal range for all groups. Clinical pathways resulted in greater uniformity in medical oncology practice. Monthly feedback about usage, familiarity with the electronic platform, and regular content updates are some factors that may influence on-pathway rates. Clinical pathways hold promise to manage unwarranted variation in cancer care.