Increasing Cancer Rehabilitation Awareness and Referrals in the Veterans Health Administration – A Quality Improvement Initiative

PM R. 2023 Jan 25. doi: 10.1002/pmrj.12949. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: To expand access to comprehensive rehabilitation services among Veterans with cancer by increasing cancer rehabilitation referrals in a Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital.

DESIGN: A rapid cycle improvement approach based on the Institute of Healthcare Improvement’s Model for Improvement was used to assess and optimize the cancer rehabilitation referral process. In this quality improvement project, our cancer rehabilitation workgroup developed an electronic screening tool within the VA electronic patient record system to streamline cancer rehabilitation referrals. Providers could complete an optional Cancer Rehabilitation (CaRe) Screen that consisted of 12 questions related to patient symptoms and function. If the screen was positive, a non-visit electronic consult was automatically generated and sent to a physiatrist for review. The physiatrist would then triage patients to appropriate services including physiatry, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, rehab psychology, and other rehabilitation services.

RESULTS: A total of 90 referrals were placed between 2019-2021. Eighty-four percent of the patients referred were male, 73% were white. The top cancer types referred were lung (22%), blood (21%), gastrointestinal (11%), and prostate (10%). There were 19 referrals in 2019, 13 in 2020, and 58 in 2021. The electronic screening tool was implemented in mid-2021. Advanced practice providers placed 48% of consults. Of the referrals placed in 2021, 13% of consults were initiated through the electronic screening tool. The most common rehabilitation related referrals placed after initial cancer rehablitation triage included physical therapy (n = 47, 35.1%), physiatry (n = 28, 20.9%), and occupational therapy (n = 24, 17.9%).

CONCLUSIONS: Implementing an electronic screening tool can streamline cancer rehabilitation referrals and increase access to cancer rehabilitation services for Veterans with cancer. Ongoing work is required to refine the referral process and educate providers and patients on the importance of cancer rehabilitation in the cancer care continuum. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

PMID:36695293 | DOI:10.1002/pmrj.12949

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