Impact of optimizing diagnostic workup and reducing the time to treatment in head and neck cancer

Head and Neck Cancer

Schutte HW, et al. Cancer 2020.


BACKGROUND: Timely and efficient diagnostic workup of patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) is challenging. This observational study describes the implementation of an optimized multidisciplinary oncological diagnostic workup for patients with HNC and its impact on diagnostic and treatment intervals, survival, costs, and patient satisfaction.

METHODS: All patients with newly diagnosed HNC who underwent staging and treatment at the Radboud University Medical Center were included. Conventional workup (CW) in 2009 was compared with the fast-track, multidisciplinary, integrated care program, that is, optimized workup (OW), as implemented in 2014.

RESULTS: The study included 486 patients with HNC (218 with CW and 268 with OW). The time-to-treatment interval was significantly lower in the OW cohort than the CW cohort (21 vs 34 days; P < .0001). The 3-year overall survival rate was 12% higher after OW (72% in the CW cohort vs 84% in the OW cohort; P = .002). After correction for confounders, the 3-year risk of death remained significantly lower in the OW cohort (hazard ratio, 1.73; 95% confidence interval, 1.14-2.63; P = .010). Total diagnostic costs were comparable in the 2 cohorts. The general satisfaction score, as measured with the Consumer Quality Index for Oncological Care, was significantly better in a matched OW group than the CW group (9.1 vs 8.5; P = .007).

CONCLUSIONS: After the implementation of a fast-track, multidisciplinary, integrated care program, the time-to-treatment interval was significantly reduced. Overall survival and patient satisfaction increased significantly, whereas costs did not change. This demonstrates the impact and improved quality of care achieved by efficiently organizing the diagnostic phase of HNC management.